Myanmar junta jails reporters, activists hit by military vehicle at anti-coup protest

A secret military court in Myanmar’s Insein Prison on Wednesday sentenced two journalists and seven anti-coup protesters to a maximum three years in prison each with labor for “incitement,” family members and an attorney with knowledge of the situation said.


The nine young people, including Kaung Set Lin and Mhu Yatanar Khat Moh Moh Tun – Myanmar Pressphoto Agency reporters – were arrested on Dec. 5 after soldiers crashed a military vehicle into crowds of peaceful anti-regime protesters in Yangon’s Kyimyindaing township in December 2021. They all had been held in pretrial detention for one year.


The junta court prosecuted them for violating section 505 (a) of the country’s Penal Code, which prohibits “causing fear, spreading false news and agitating crimes against a government employee,” punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment, said the attorney who is representing the two journalists.


The regime, which seized power from the country’s elected government in a February 2021 coup, uses the section to justify criminal charges against people it believes pose a challenge to its authority, rights groups say.


The others sentenced were Bo Bo San, Kyaw Zin Khant, Arkar Kyaw, Ko Ko Naing, Min Min Oo, Min Hein Khant, Si Thu, Mya Kyu Kyu Thin, and Yin May Aung.


Mhu Yatanar Khat Moh Moh Tun, who has been indicted in a separate case for violating Section 50 (j) of Myanmar’s Counter-Terrorism Law, is still suffering from a broken leg and other injuries after she was hit by the military truck while reporting on the protest, her relatives told RFA.


Section 50 (j) pertains to offenses regarding the financing of terrorism and carries a prison sentence of 10 years to life, with the possibility of a fine.


“Her leg was broken in three places, so she can’t move without crutches at all,” said the family members who declined to be named for safety reasons. The journalist also suffers from extreme headaches as a result of a blow to the head she received in the incident.


“It was a relief when we initially thought she had only one case, but now that she is facing another trial for another case, we are all feeling pain and sorrow for her,” said the relative.


Mhu Yatanar Khat Moh Moh Tun’s family said prison authorities have allowed them to send food and medicine to the journalist every two weeks, though they are not permitted to visit her.


Myo Min, father of Kaung Set Lin, said he was grief-stricken by his son’s prison sentence.


“His mother is struggling with the grief as he is her only child,” Myo Min said. “Since his pelvic and waist bones were broken, he needs serious medication, but he only has access to ointment, along with other things that we send to him.”


Nan Lin, an activist with the University Students’ Union Alumni Force, called the junta led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing “two-faced.”


“Min Aung Hlaing and his followers of the military junta only talk about human rights, federalism, peace, and democracy. In reality, they arbitrarily detain young pro-democracy activists, give them unfair trials and judgments, and sentence them to many years [in jail], or even to death.’


On July 25, the junta executed four democracy activists, including prominent former student leader Ko Jimmy and a former National League for Democracy lawmaker. Prior to those executions, which prompted protests at home and condemnation abroad, only three people had been executed in Myanmar in the past 50 years.


Nan Lin said that the junta has even killed some activists while they are serving prison time.


“These are some of the crimes that the junta commits every day,” he said. “Our country has no future, no human rights and no federalism that we yearn for, as long as the dictator and the military junta rules it.”


As of Thursday, more than 16,500 people from various professions and walks of life, including journalists, have been arrested since the military coup, according to the Assistance of Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), a Thailand-based human rights organization. More than 13,100 of those arrested remain in detention, including 1,800 who have been sentenced to prison, the group said.


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