Sedition charge brought against former religious affairs minister

The government levied an additional charge of sedition on Tuesday against Hsan Hsint, the deposed religious affairs minister, who currently faces a host of allegations, including the misuse of state funds.

Appearing at Dakhina Thiri district court in Naypyidaw on Tuesday, the one-time speaker of Irrawaddy Division parliament heard that prosecutors had added the charge under Article 124(a) of Burma’s Penal Code, which carries a prison sentence of up to three years.

Hsan Hsint had previously faced allegations of embezzling state funds, and had been charged with criminal breach of trust and abetting another individual to commit the same offence. The latter charge was dropped as the sedition charge was added.

Outlined in Burma’s penal code, the sedition charge is described as the crime of “excit[ing] disaffection towards the Government”.

These charges come after Hsan Hsint was arrested on 19 June, stripped of his position, and accused of mishandling the Mahasantisukha monastery raid.

On 10 June, police and the State Sangha Maha Nayaka raided the Rangoon monastery and detained five monks, including prominent Buddhist leader Uttara, over a longstanding land dispute. The monks were subsequently defrocked and charged for insulting religion and inciting mutiny, a move widely denounced by the Burmese public and religious leaders.

Allegations later emerged that Hsan Hsint had misused up to US$10,000 in state funds.

Reporters were banned from court on Tuesday, a move that observers say indicates a lack of transparency by the government.

Khin Maung Win, of Irrawaddy Division parliament, confirmed that media access was restricted.

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“There is no transparency, he said. “They are restricting access— this is not natural.”

Earlier this month, over 200 supporters turned out in the town of Pathien to protest against the trial. Hsan Hsint remains a popular figure in the delta region, where he was perceived as competent and honest in his leading parliamentary role

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