A man arrested by Burmese authorities for photographing the aftermath of the deadly bombings in Rangoon in April this year has been sentenced to eight years imprisonment.
Sithu Zeya, 21, a reporter for the Democratic Voice of Burma, was yesterday found guilty by Rangoon’s Mingalartaungnyunt township court of illegal border crossing and holding ties to an unlawful organisation. He was arrested shortly after the April bombings and has been held by police since.
“I am sad that he’s now ended up prison for taking some photos,” said his mother Yee Yee Tin. “He just finished school and had not even started working yet. He is interested in journalism, that the only thing I know.”
Sithu’s father, Maung Maung Zeya, also a DVB reporter, was arrested a day after his son and is still awaiting a verdict, but from a high-level court. Yee Yee Tin said that she was expecting his sentencing to be harsher.
Sithu is facing a further charge under the Electronics Act, which can result in up to 20 years in prison. The family’s legal advisor, Aung Thein, said that none of the accusations were supported by strong evidence.
“The prosecutors couldn’t provide any independent evidence for the accusations on [Sithu Zeya’s] illegal border crossing and contact with the individuals of the so-called ‘unlawful association.’ The verdict was based on informal confession results from torturing the accused while he was under interrogation,” said Aung Thein.
Sithu Zeya was arrested on 15 April after taking photographs of the bombing at X20 pavilion during Rangoon’s Thingyan Water Festival. Nine people died in the incident, which was the worst attack in Rangoon since 2005. It preceded a number of other bombings around Burma, focused mainly on controversial hydropower projects.
Maung Maung Zeya remains in detention in Rangoon’s Insein prison and is due to appear in court today. Maung Maung Zeya is the son of renowned late writer Linyon Maung Maung.