UDP chair Kyaw Myint gets an extra two years for prison escape

A court in Mandalay’s Chan Aye Tharzan township has sentenced Kyaw Myint, the chair of the recently dissolved United Democratic Party (UDP), to an additional two years behind bars for absconding from prison 21 years ago.

In a ruling handed down on Thursday, the court found Kyaw Myint guilty of violating article 224 of the penal code for fleeing from lawful custody in 1999 while serving a nine-year sentence.

The court reached its decision after hearing from five witnesses for the prosecution, including former prison warden Aye Chan, and six UDP candidates who testified for the defense.

Aye Chan, who now goes by his monastic name of U Indra Bartha, served nine years in prison for allowing Kyaw Myint to escape from Mandalay’s Obo prison during his tenure there as warden.

Aung Min, the current chief of Mandalay’s Police Station No. 8, submitted the case to the court as plaintiff after police failed to locate his predecessor, Thein Htay, who filed the original charges against Kyaw Myint.

Judge Kyaw Myo Win explained that the defendant was given the maximum sentence for his offense because a number of people had to face serious consequences for his actions.

“The two-year is in addition to the previous sentence. He was given this sentence because he was found guilty of the crime, taking into consideration the people who had suffered the consequences of his escape,” he said.

As he listened to the verdict, Kyaw Myint nodded several times without speaking. He is facing a total of 10 years in prison, including the remaining years of the nine-year sentence he received in 1998.

Kyaw Myint’s lawyer Nay Lin Tun told the media after the verdict that his client would exercise his legal right to appeal the judgment.

“I don’t want to comment on the verdict. But I will proceed within my client’s legal rights,” he said.

Kyaw Myint’s conviction in 1998 was related to a company he owned called Myanmar Kyone Yeom.

He was charged for breaches of the Myanmar Company Act but the US State Department later suggested that his company was involved in laundering drug money for the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

After escaping, he sought asylum in the United States and later in Canada. It was while he was living in Canada that he founded the UDP in 2007.

Also known as the White Rose Party, the UDP came to prominence in the past year when it became second only to the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) in the number of candidates it fielded in this year’s election.

With the increased scrutiny this attracted, it soon emerged that Kyaw Myint had been living in Myanmar since 2013 as a fugitive from the law. This led to his arrest on September 29 and the dissolution of his party weeks later.

In addition to the absconding charge, he also stands accused of illegally entering the country. During Thursday’s court hearing, the judge rejected a call to drop the immigration charge and set November 25 as the date to hear the case.

A man and a woman were present at the court hearing, along with the defendant’s lawyers, the prosecutors, three police officers, and two journalists.

Two supporters wearing UDP shirts shouted “May our chair be healthy” as Kyaw Myint was taken back to prison after the hearing.

Until it was dissolved on October 17, the UDP had planned to contest in over 1,130 constituencies nationwide.

The party was disbanded shortly after a government investigation revealed that its chair had been illegally receiving billions of kyat from China.

Currently, Kyaw Myint’s businesses and properties are being temporarily confiscated, the President’s Office said.

It remains unknown if he will face trial for money laundering.

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