A man in Irrawaddy Division’s Maubin township who petitioned President Thein Sein last year has been sentenced to one year in prison.
Than Aye was seeking to allow local peasants to fish in waters leased by a businessman. He was sentenced after being charged with possessing a modified slingshot, which are capable of firing bicycle spokes and sharp objects.
The slingshot was the weapon of choice during the 1988 uprising and as a result, not highly regarded by authorities. However, most villagers in rural Burma own similar devices.
Than Aye gathered signatures last year with the hopes of allowing locals to begin using a fishery leased by Naing Oo, who prevented residents from using the property with backing from local authorities.
Land is state owned and leases often go to the highest bidders in the country.
On 21 October last year, local authorities raided Than Aye’s house and arrested him after discovering he owned a slingshot. He was later charged with possessing a weapon. Maubin township’s court found him guilty of the charge and sentenced him to one year in prison, said fellow Latpakin villager Thet Naing.
“People in the village have decided to look after his family while at the same time [working] to bring him freedom,” said Thet Naing.
National League for Democracy (NLD) member and labour activist Su Su Nway said that Than Aye is an honest man and influential Buddhist monks in the village even worked to help secure bail for the fisherman.
“All the executive and judicial authorities are siding with U Naing Oo and believing everything he [says] – this is damaging for the villagers,” said Su Su Nway.
The National League for Democracy’s attorneys are assisting Than Aye with the case.