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Myanmar junta hands out harsh sentences to people from martial law townships

Myanmar’s junta has been handing out long prison sentences to people arrested in Sagaing region townships where it has imposed martial law, sentencing seven people to terms of between seven years and life over the past week, according to locals and People’s Defense Force officials.

On June 14, troops arrested three residents of Ayadaw township in a restaurant before they planned to head to Yangon to attend a Korean language course.

On Aug. 31, a military tribunal sentenced one of them, 40-year-old Zaw Aung, to life in prison on three terrorism charges.

The Northern Military Command tribunal also sentenced 20-year-old Thiha Zaw and 19-year-old Pyae Sone Aung to seven years for terrorism.

The Information officer of the People’s Defense Force in Ayadaw township, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, told Radio Free Asia he was surprised such harsh sentences were imposed on ordinary villagers.

“Those who have been arrested and sentenced are not part of the revolution,” he said. 

“Many of the families here go to Yangon to attend Korean courses in order to go abroad because the economy has become difficult. I thought that they would be released as they did not belong [to a People’s Defense Force]. I was so surprised when this happened.”

He added that nearly 30 civilians from Ayadaw township have been arrested and imprisoned in the seven months since the junta imposed martial law there.

In a separate case on Sept. 2, a military court in Indaw township sentenced two men to life imprisonment, according to a statement by the Indaw Revolution anti-junta group.

They were with another man and a woman arrested at a checkpoint at the township entrance in July.

On Saturday, the court sentenced Zaw Myo Naing and Tin Maung Win to life imprisonment for terrorism and treason.

It sentenced Kyaw Thet and Thida Win to seven years for supporting local People’s Defense Forces.

An official of Indaw Revolution, who also declined to give his name, told RFA that despite the harsh punishments, the four had no ties to the group.

He added that more than 10 civilians have been sentenced to death or life imprisonment since the junta imposed martial law on Indaw township.

Calls to junta council spokesperson for Sagaing region, Tin Than Win, seeking comment on the sentences went unanswered.

A total of 14 townships, including Indaw in Sagaing region have been put under martial law by the junta since February, 2023.

Since then, 235 civilians have been sentenced to prison terms by military courts in Sagaing region, according to pro-junta Telegram messaging app channels.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.