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Three Kachin IDPs serving jail terms have been found guilty of further crimes.
On Thursday, a Myitkyina court found the trio guilty of breaching the Explosives Act and sentenced the refugees, La Ring, Lahpai Gun and Brang Yone, to prison terms of three, 13 and 14 years respectively.
The three were arrested in 2012 at the Baptist Church in Myitkyina where they were taking shelter after fleeing their homes amid fighting between Burmese government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
Shortly after their arrest, the three, along with fellow IDP Zaw Bauk, were charged under the Unlawful Association Act for alleged links to the outlawed KIA.
Over a year later, in November 2013, each member of the quartet was found guilty and sentenced to serve two years in prison.
Further to this, arresting officers believed Lahpai Gun, Brang Yone and La Ring to be linked to a bomb plot. The three were charged with multiple crimes under the Explosives Act.
Those charges have been brought to court in a somewhat piecemeal fashion. In December, Lahpai Gun and Brang Yone were sentenced to five additional years in prison after being found guilty on a number of charges.
A Myitkyina court heard the remainder of the charges on Thursday, and further extended the IDP’s stays in prison.
Their lawyer, Mar Khar, confirmed the lengthy additional sentences.
“Brang Yone was sentenced to 14 years on Thursday under four separate charges while Laphai Gun was sentenced to 13 years, and La Ring to three years,” he said, adding that all three were already serving terms in Myitkyina Prison – Brang Yong and Lahpai Gun seven years each and La Ring two years.
Mar Khar slammed the court’s decision on Thursday as unfair, and criticised the judicial authorities for aligning with the government and military instead of seeking justice for civilians.
“The sentencing of my clients show that the judicial system in Myitkyina is dented and there is absolutely no rule of law,” said the lawyer.
“The courts are sentencing innocent civilians in favour of the government and the military, instead of providing them with legal protection.”
The lawyer said he is planning to lodge appeals on behalf of his clients, focusing on the unlawful association charges.
The appeals will be heard at the Supreme Court in Naypyidaw on 17 June.
In July 2012, another Kachin IDP, Lahtaw Brang Shawng, was sentenced to two years in prison under the Unlawful Association Act, having been arrested by the Burmese army and allegedly tortured. Lahtaw Brang Shawng was freed as part of a presidential amnesty in June 2013.