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Rangoon photographer sent to Insein jail

A man who was arrested in April along with his son after photographing the aftermath of the Rangoon bombings has been sent to Burma’s notorious Insein prison.

Maung Maung Zeya, 55, and his son Sithu Zeya are yet to be convicted of any offense, but have been held in detention since their arrest on 15 April following the grenade attacks which left nine dead and hundreds injured.

The two are being kept in different cells in Rangoon’s Insein prison, which was built by the British and has housed hundreds of Burma’s pro-democracy luminaries. Maung Maung Zeya was transferred there from Bahan township police station on 14 June, while Sithu Zeya was moved there in May.

“I [visited] the two on Monday [14 June],” said wife and mother, Yee Yee Tint.  “Maung Maung Zeya was detained in [Insein prison’s] Ward 1 and Sithu Zeya in Ward 5.

“I was only allowed to meet them one by one. They are OK apart from Sithu complaining that he had to appear in court along with everyone and he couldn’t bear the cigarette smoke. [Maung Maung] will be brought to the court on 22 June and Sithu [tomorrow],” she said.

Biology student Sithu appeared in court earlier this month on two charges of breaching the Electronics Act and holding links to so-called ‘unlawful associations’, a label often used by the Burmese junta to tarnish exiled media and pro-democracy groups. Maung Maung has also been charged under the Unlawful Association Act, as well as the Immigration Act, and will begin his trial on 22 June.

Neither party is said to have had anything to do with the bombings; the charges stem from the Burmese government’s draconian press laws, which target media workers suspected to be providing material to exiled news outlets. Rangoon police chief Khin Yi told a press conference that the two were arrested for videoing the aftermath of the incident.

Yee Yee Tint said in May that her son had told her he had been beaten and denied food during the early stages of interrogation in April.

“Their initial [Immigration Act] charges are handed down by the immigration department,” Yee Yee Tint told DVB yesterday. “Sithu had previously been abroad with the passport, but [authorities] allege that he left Burma [illegally] from Myawaddy [on the border with Thailand].

“U Zeya [father] was faces the same allegations but his case is more serious as it was filed at the [Western Rangoon] Provincial Court,” having previously been filed at a lower township court.

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.


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