Michaungkan activist sentenced to 8 months

Michaungkan activist sentenced to 8 months

Land rights activist Sein Than was sentenced to four months in prison on Wednesday, lengthening his term to eight months following another ruling issued on Tuesday.

Sein Than was convicted of violating Burma’s Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act in two separate townships for spearheading an unpermitted protest against an alleged land grab in Michaungkan, Rangoon Division.

The activist’s daughter, Nay Nwe, told DVB on Thursday that Rangoon’s Bahan Township issued the second ruling for the same offence he had already been convicted of. Sein Than led a group of protestors to the home of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to deliver documents and plead their case.

“My father was charged under Article 18 [the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act] for leading a rally in front of Daw Suu’s house, where we went to hand her documents about our case and ask for her assistance,” said Nay Nwe.

He has faced the same charge in several other townships, including Pabedan and Latha, all pertaining to his activism surrounding the Michaungkan land-grab case. In March, Sein Than helped organise an encampment in front of Rangoon’s Maha Bandoola Park, where hundreds of protestors participated in a sit-in that continued until they were forcibly removed by authorities.

Periodic re-occupations have since resumed as the 24-year struggle to retrieve the disputed land continues. The protestors say they were evicted from their homes in the suburban Rangoon township in a land grab by the Burmese military in 1990.

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When Sein Than appeared in a Latha court on Tuesday, around 80 protestors showed up in matching t-shirts to support him.

Lawyers and activists have criticised the government for allowing the trial to proceed in multiple townships for what is essentially the same charge.

Robert San Aung, a well-known attorney in Burma who often defends activists, argued that the multiple trials contravene the country’s penal code.

“According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 234, a person must undergo only one trial for three different counts of the same kind of offence if they are committed within one year,” he said. “This is against the law.”

Aung Thein of the Myanmar Lawyers Network said that a defendant has the right to appeal to a higher court and upon doing so, can request to have the sentences combined.

“The defendant faced charges by police in several townships, but he has the right to appeal to the district court to concurrently serve sentences for the same offence,” said Aung Thein.
Sein Than is still awaiting verdicts for similar charges in two other townships.

 

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