United Democratic Party leader appears in court to face prison break charge 

The wealthy and mysterious chair of the United Democratic Party (UDP) appeared at a court in Mandalay on Friday to be charged with escaping from prison in 1999.

A column of police officers, including two with rifles, escorted Kyaw Myint into the Chan Aye Tharzan township courtroom, where he was charged under section 224 of the Penal Code. 

Kyaw Myint, who was arrested at his luxury Yangon home on Tuesday, was jailed for nine years at Mandalay’s Obo prison in 1998 for flouting business laws. 

But he escaped the following year to Thailand before being granted asylum in the US. He reportedly shaved his head and dressed as a monk to avoid detection while on the run inside Myanmar. 

He has argued that his conviction was political. But it is widely believed that he helped the United Wa State Army to launder drug money.  

The UDP, is funded via his network of business interests and this year is fielding more candidates than any other party besides the National League for Democracy. 

Section 224 carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a fine, but judge Kyaw Myo Win indicated Kyaw Myint is likely to be charged with other offences. 

“For the charges from his past, we will keep working on them,” he told reporters after the hearing. “But for today, the court only charged him for escaping from prison.” 

The prosecution also submitted the names of 10 plaintiff witnesses on Friday, the judge said, and the prosecution will be heard first at the next hearing on October 8.

Kyaw Myint is once again being held at Obo prison.

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