United Democratic Party chair to serve remainder of 9-year sentence after 1999 prison escape 

United Democratic Party (UDP) chair Kyaw Myint, who was arrested last week for escaping from prison in 1999, will be made to serve the remaining eight years of his nine-year sentence, a prison official said. 

Kyaw Myint was a year into his sentence for breaching business laws when he fled Mandalay’s Obo prison and travelled to Thailand, reportedly dressing like a monk to avoid detention while inside Myanmar.  

Last week authorities said he faced two years in prison for the crime of escaping, but this is the first time officials have confirmed he will also have to finish the sentence he started in the 1990s. 

“There is the pre-existing case. He ran away while serving his sentence, and he’s now been charged for absconding. So he’ll have to serve jail time for both charges,” said Ye Yint Naing, a spokesperson for the Prisons Department. 

Kyaw Myint, 69, is being held at Obo prison under tight security to prevent him escaping again, he added.

It is still unclear how Kyaw Myint was able to return to Myanmar in 2013 and live freely despite being a fugitive. 

Not only was he allowed to chair a political party, he also set up companies that helped fund a lavish lifestyle of luxury cars, eye-wateringly expensive cognac, and a home in a luxurious gated community. 

During Kyaw Myint’s first hearing at the Chan Aye Tharzan township court last week, judge Kyaw Myo Win said the trial for absconding would go ahead first, while the unserved portion of his sentence could be considered later after confirmation from prison officials.

The next hearing will be held on Thursday, when the length of the trial will also be decided.  

Kyaw Myint’s original conviction was for flouting the Myanmar Company Act via a firm he owned called Myanmar Kyone Yeom. While Myanmar’s authorities at the time did not publicly specify, the US government suspected the company was involved in laundering drug money for the United Wa State Army.  

After settling in the US and then Canada, Kyaw Myint claimed he was granted US asylum in exchange for co-operating with the country’s Drug Enforcement Agency.

He founded the UDP while in Canada in 2007. The party fielded a few dozen candidates in the 2010 and 2015 elections but failed to win any seats.

This year, with the help of Kyaw Myint’s large fortune, the party has expanded across the country and is fielding candidates in almost every constituency.

But the arrest of its chair has left the party in disarray and its future in doubt, with local offices saying they haven’t received funding and some members threatening to quit.  

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