More and more people are being jailed under anti-terrorism charges.
According to the September 26 statistics of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), in the third year since the military coup, this year, there has been an increase in prosecutions under the anti-terrorism section. There are nearly twenty thousand people (19,272) nationwide who have been arrested by the military council, they arrested both those who opposed his rule in various ways and the family members of those who opposed them. Of these, more than seven thousand people (7374) have already been sentenced.
Looking back at the people who have already been imprisoned, more than half of them, 3,717 have been prosecuted and imprisoned under sections of the Anti-Terrorism Act. 135 in 2021, 948 in 2022, and now 1007 in the nine months to September 26, 2023, as for the remaining 1,627, it has not yet been specified exactly when the order was made.
A lawyer in Yangon, who did not want to be named for security reasons, said that the military council has widely used the anti-terrorism law since mid-2021. "We noticed that it was June 30, 2021. The sentence was pardoned. Later, he seems to have changed his policy. Sections of the anti-terrorism law, usually 52 (a), 50 (j), 54 and 49 (a). Another thing that has changed more this year is because, after the previous incident, we have seen that the prisoners who have already been sentenced are being charged with terrorism charges again."
Last September 22, U Kyaw Zaya, a representative of Pyay Township of Bago Township of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, was sentenced to 19 years in prison, sentenced to an additional 20 years in prison under Section 49 (a) of the Anti-Terrorism Law, bringing his total prison term to 39 years. His wife Daw Nilar said that U Kyaw Zaya was arrested and imprisoned on unjust charges. "To be honest, all the people in prison are doing what's right for justice. The military council just sentenced them as in their mouths. I know it's unfair, but at the moment, we are just watching. We are not in a position to do anything yet.”
Two 14-year-old children were among those imprisoned for terrorist offenses. One is Mg Arkar Aung from North Dagon, Yangon Region, who has been arrested since August 2021. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison under the Terrorism Act in December of that year and sent to Thayarwaddy Prison. Another one is Mg Phyo Yan Naing from Madaya, Mandalay, who was arrested in 2022. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison under the Terrorism Act by the Military Council and sent to Mandalay Prison. We have tried to ask the family to get information about how they are doing in prison and why they were imprisoned for what actions but have not been able to contact them at the moment.
Most of those jailed under the anti-terrorism law are young people, but a 78-year-old man has also been jailed. He is U Shwe Htoo (b) U Aung Zaya from Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay Region. He was arrested in April 2022 and sentenced to 17 years in prison in December under terrorism laws. He is currently in Mandalay prison. We are still trying to contact the family to find out the details of what led to his imprisonment.
U Kyaw Zaw, spokesman for the National Unity Government presidential office, said that this violation of human rights is a big sin. "The army arrested and detained without law. They even went so far as to sentence people who they thought were the most dangerous to live under the Terrorism Act and to put them in prison for long years. I would like to say that at some point in the rule of law, those who are guilty according to the law will be punished under a fair trial. Violating human rights is a very big sin.”
Among those imprisoned for terrorist offenses, 35 people were sentenced to death, 221 people were sentenced to life imprisonment, 15 people who have been sentenced to death and life imprisonment, and two people who have been sentenced to more than 200 years in prison. The rest were sentenced to 3 to 95 years in prison.
A legal expert from Yangon who wanted to remain anonymous opined that the punishment beyond human life is not equal to the crime and the punishment. "The average life expectancy in Myanmar is only 75 years. Now, if you look at these convicted children, there are usually children between 20 and 30. So, from the point of view of law, imposing such big sins beyond human life is not fair at all. Our jurists see the same thing, that the relevant punishment is not equal to his crime and punishment."
According to AAPP's list, among those who have been imprisoned for terrorism, 3,164 men, 550 women, and three LGBT people are included. Among them, 550 people from all sectors such as members of Parliament, political party members, activists, civil organizations, education, health, and media workers, and 3167 ordinary civilians are included.