Two ABSDF Members Released From Prison Alongside Reuters Reporters

The vice chairperson and a lieutenant had been sentenced under Article 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Two members of the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) were also released in a Presidential pardon that also freed Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo from prison on Tuesday.

Vice chairperson Aung Swe Oo and Lt Maung Oo had been held in Mohnyin prison in Kachin State, sentenced to two years in jail under Article 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act, a colonial era statute that punishes perceived links to “illegal” organizations.

ABSDF chairperson Than Khe told NMG he “welcomed the release of our members” and that he wanted to thank President Win Myint, the National Reconciliation and Peace Center, and other respective officials who worked on the case.

The arrest of the two men came on November 20, 2018 despite the ABSDF having signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the Burmese government in 2015. Aung Swe Oo and Maung Oo were going to a funeral of late comrade Naing Tun Tun in Mohnyin when they were taken into custody by military intelligent and later handed to police.

The charges under 17(1) were “not a fair decision,” Than Khe said.

“This is the second time charges have been brought against ABSDF members. From now on, I want the authorities to avoid these kinds of accusations and charges against us,” he explained. Only then, he added will mutual trust be built between stakeholders in Burma’s peace efforts.

“I think responsibility and accountability will support the peace process,” Chairperson Than Khe added.

Some 6,520 people were released from prisons across Burma on Tuesday in the last round of pardons beginning on the Burmese New Year in April.

The most high profile release on Tuesday was that of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two reporters working for Reuters who were imprisoned in Insein in Yangon for more than a year. They were arrested in December 2017 and sentenced in September 2018 to seven years in prison for violating the Official Secrets Act in their reporting of a massacre of Rohingya Muslims by state security in Rakhine State. Their appeals had previously been rejected by the Supreme Court.