Thirteen Arakanese youths charged under suspicion of having connection with the rebel Arakan Army (AA) have each been sentenced to three years imprisonment with labour.
Aye Nu Sein, the defence lawyer representing the group, said they were found guilty under the Unlawful Association Act by Sittwe Township court on Friday.
The 13, detained four months ago in the Arakan State capital, apparently confessed to having connections with the AA.
“All thirteen were sentenced to three years each in prison with labour as they confessed to the allegation,” said Aye Nu Sein, adding that there was currently no plan to appeal their verdict.
The defendants were identified as: Nyo Maung, Myint Kyaw, San Maung, Zaw Lin Tun, Aung Kyaw Thein, Zaw Min Oo, Zaw Win Naing, Aye Kyaw Than, Zaw Min Htay, Zaw Min Tun and Win Aung.
The case against the 13 is the latest in a litany of arrests under the Unlawful Association Law in Arakan, also known as Rakhine. Last May, 23 people were rounded up in Kyauktaw and later jailed, accused of having connections to the AA.
Fighting broke out over a year ago between the rebel Arakan Army troops and Burmese government forces, causing dire food shortages among local villagers who were denied access to commercial areas.
Clashes between the AA and the Burmese army were initially reported on 17 and 18 April 2015 in what the AA described as the “longest and fiercest” fighting seen with government forces in the state.
The AA originated in Kachin State’s Laiza and has in recent years fought alongside the Kokang militia known as the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army against the Burmese military close to the Chinese border in northern Shan State.
The AA is a member of the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team but is not officially recognised by the Burmese government. The AA has made manoeuvres for the first time in western Burma a year ago, citing frustration with the peace process.