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Myanmar charges three pre-coup UEC members with breaching polling laws

Myanmar’s military government is cracking down on its opposition ahead of national elections expected next year by handing out jail sentences to members of the National League for Democracy ((NLD) and former Union Election Commission (UEC) members.

UEC Chairman U Hla Thein and two UEC members from the pre-coup NLD-led government were sentenced to three-years in prison under Section 130 (a) of the criminal law, according to sources close to the court.

One source identified the three as UEC spokesperson Myint Naing, UEC member Than Htay and UEC Chairman Hla Thein. They were sentenced by a special court on Thursday. 

The three UEC members have been in Naypyidaw Prison since November 2021 and were tried in the prison’s court. The fate of other arrested UEC members is still unclear.

Section 130 (a) aims to penalize those who prohibit or omit existing laws and carries a maximum sentence of three years plus a fine. 

Myanmar’s former president Win Myint and NLD leader and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi have also been accused of influencing and abusing their electoral power under Section 130 (a).

The Union Election Commission organizes and oversees elections in Myanmar as well as vetting candidates and parties. The day after last year’s February 1 coup the State Administrative Council appointed six members aligned with the military. 

The sentences handed out on Thursday are the first convictions of UEC members who were responsible for the 2020 election, the results of which were annulled following the coup. Other senior NLD ministers have also been charged under Section 130 (a) although local and international observers said the election had been free and fair.

Sanchaung township NLD chairman Bo Bo Oo said that the military council is continuing to make mistaken legal judgements because it knows its claim to power is unfounded.

 ”The coup was illegal and it did not comply with the law,” he said “They broke the law by seizing power in the first place. They want to say what is right and wrong but in reality they are just making more mistakes. It has been one mistake after another from the beginning.”

The junta-appointed UEC said in January that 422 people, including Aung San Suu Kyi had been arrested and charged with electoral fraud. Suu Kyi faces a series of charges that could lead to a sentence of more than 100 years.

In the 2020 election the UEC deliberated on 1,077 election-related cases, charging 546 people with breaches of the electoral law. Of these, 342 were prosecuted and 194 cases were dismissed. The UEC says 10 cases are pending as it awaits legal advice.