10 convicted over Myanmar unrest

A group of 10 Buddhist men from Myanmar’s Rakhine State have been sentenced to between nine months and three years in prison for involvement in the sectarian violence that shook the town of Kyauk Taw last year.

  • Published: 10/05/2013 at 11:19 AM
  • Newspaper section: breakingnews

Smoke rises from burning houses in Sittwe, capital of the western state of Rakhine on June 15, 2012. A wave of violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the region killed nearly 200 people and displaced more than 100,000 in June and October 2012. (AFP photo)

Judges ruled that the men, who have been detained since last June for allegedly destroying houses in a Muslim village, will have to carry out hard labour as part of their sentences, their lawyer Aye Nu Sein said.

Kyauk Taw was one of the towns hit in a wave of violence between Buddhists and Muslims that killed nearly 200 people and displaced more than 100,000 in June and October 2012. Most of around 1,000 people arrested for their alleged roles in the conflict have now been released, but some continue to be held awaiting trial. 

According to The IrrawaddyAye Nu Sein said that her clients would appeal their sentencing under Section 436 of Myanmar's Penal Code for destruction of property by incendiary means, and Section 379 on theft. 

Locals from Kyauk Taw claimed that the accused were innocent and suggested their prosecution was initiated at the order of Myanmar’s military.

Kyauk Taw resident Maung Maung told The Irrawaddy that “the army troops say [the 10 villagers] stole cows, but in my view, they just put up the names to be able to prosecute the villagers under the various charges.”

He said the cows’ disappearance was probably a result of the animals escaping during the chaos. The cows’ whereabouts remain unknown, he added. 

“The army troops also arrested all kinds of people in their path during that conflict, then they sent them to the police station,” Maung Maung said.

Another local, Htun Htun, said he was certain that at least two of the accused men were innocent because they were not at the scene of conflict when the violence occurred.

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