Myanmar junta hands 100-year prison terms to men convicted of joining armed resistance

Among the recent convicts is a former National League for Democracy MP, accused of involvement in attacks on military personnel that occurred while he was in regime custody

The Myanmar military regime has sentenced four individuals to at least 95 years in prison in recent months after junta-controlled courts determined that they were involved in the armed resistance movement, according to sources familiar with their cases. 

Among them was an ex-parliamentarian from the National League for Democracy (NLD), whose elected government was ousted in the February 2021 coup. Fifty-two-year-old Win Myint Hlaing previously represented Taungdwingyi Township in the local legislature of Magway Region, now a resistance stronghold.

The three other individuals had reportedly been members of local guerrilla groups. Aung Khant Oo, 29, also from Magway, was in the Beikthano People’s Defence Army, and Kyaw Thet, 30, and Hnin Maung, 36, were active in a resistance group based in Mandalay Region’s Wundwin Township. 

All were convicted of several counts of violating the Counterterrorism Law this month as well as in October, and handed prison terms ranging from 95 to 225 years—the longest sentences delivered by the junta since the coup.

Lawmaker Win Myint Hlaing was sentenced to a total of 148 years for 14 separate convictions in the Magway District Court on October 30. While the details surrounding the cases remain unclear, the four sections of the counterterrorism statute under which he was charged—50a, 52a, 51c and 54—are related to attacks on “state-owned facilities,”  the “recruitment” of resistance fighters, or the use of bombs. 

He had already been handed 25 years in prison for five other convictions in April, including incitement under Section 505a of the Penal Code. His total sentence was 173 years at the time of reporting.Nov_25_.Jpeg

Former NLD MP Win Myint Hlaing (Facebook)

Former NLD MP Win Myint Hlaing (Facebook)

Win Myint Hlaing participated in anti-dictatorship demonstrations in the wake of the coup and went into hiding after the military authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in late February. He was apprehended in November last year in Yatsauk (Lawksawk), southern Shan State, along with his brother, Zaw Zaw. 

He was subsequently interrogated at a military facility in the Shan State capital of Taunggyi for around two weeks before being transferred to Magway Region’s central prison where he is currently detained. 

A source close to Win Myint Hlaing’s family told Myanmar Now on the condition of anonymity that most of the terror charges filed against him were related to incidents that happened while he was already in junta custody.

“He was accused of involvement in incidents, such as the killing of regime informants and policemen, which happened after his arrest. He was charged along with those arrested after him,” the family friend said.

Citing court sources, she explained that the judge at the Magway District Court who heard his cases was reportedly “surprised” when Win Myint Hlaing’s defence lawyer emphasised that his client was already in detention when the attacks occurred.

The military also accused him of leading the Beikthano People’s Defence Army, according to a junta statement released after his arrest. 

Two months after the military captured Win Myint Hlaing, Aung Khant Oo—who was a member of the resistance group—was arrested by junta soldiers. 

Aung Khant Oo was later charged with the illegal use of explosives, in addition to several anti-terrorism and incitement charges. After nearly 10 months in detention awaiting trial, he was sentenced to a total of 203 years on November 15 by the same regime-controlled Magway District Court. 

Aung Khant Oo, member of the Beikthano People’s Defence Army (Facebook)

Aung Khant Oo, member of the Beikthano People’s Defence Army (Facebook)

A friend and fellow member of the Beikthano resistance group, told Myanmar Now that Aung Khant Oo was also accused of involvement in attacks on junta targets which occurred after his arrest.

“Included in his cases were incidents that happened in February [2022] and later. That’s why his sentences became so long. There were more than 10 cases,” Aung Khant Oo’s friend said.

Myanmar Now is unable to verify his claims independently.

Meanwhile, Kyaw Thet and Hnin Maung, from Wundwin, were reportedly arrested in January this year and were both handed exhaustive prison terms as well as death sentences for their involvement in the Mandalay guerrilla group.

While details surrounding their cases remain unclear, Kyaw Thet has been ordered to serve 225 years and Hnin Maung 95 years, in addition to being sentenced to death, according to Kyar Ye, a fellow resistance fighter.

Both were initially held in Meiktila Prison, but transferred to a larger facility in Myingyan where inmates facing terms of more than a decade are frequently incarcerated. 

A veteran defence attorney told Myanmar Now that judges are prohibited from handing down separate sentences for violations of the same terrorism charges for acts allegedly committed within the same year. 

“It is instilling fear into the people. But the people are not afraid. Those [judges] who have handed down these sentences will end up with a bad reputation,” said the veteran lawyer.

Sources close to Win Myint Hlaing and Aung Khant Oo said that their family members were able to meet with them before they were sentenced, but have not seen them since the convictions.

The family friend of the former MP said that he was in good health even though he required regular medication for high blood pressure.

“I am hoping to reunite with him soon as I believe our revolution will win,” she said.

The friend of Aung Khant Oo told Myanmar Now that he had encouraged his fellow resistance fighters to continue their struggle.

“He said that he was ‘hanging in there’ and urged us to keep fighting.”

According to data collected by the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, nearly 13,000 people in Myanmar were behind bars at the time of reporting, with some awaiting trial and others already convicted. Eighty-six have reportedly been sentenced to death.

Additional reporting by Aung Naing 

Myanmar Now News