A court in military-ruled Myanmar has convicted a former National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker of terrorism and handed him a 148-year prison sentence, as its crackdown on the anti-regime resistance continues.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which has been issuing daily briefings of those killed and arrested by the military junta since last year’s coup, stated yesterday that Win Myint Hlaing was sentenced under four provisions of the country’s Counter-Terrorism Law. He had already been sentenced to serve 25 years in prison on five other charges, including Section 505(a) of the Penal Code, which criminalizes “incitement,” bringing his total prison term to 173 years.
As The Associated Press reported, this is the longest given to any member of the NLD who has been detained after the military toppled it from power on February 1, 2021.
Until the coup, Win Myint Hlaing, 52, represented Taungdwingyi township in the Magwe regional legislature, a position that he won in the NLD’s landslide victory at the election of November 2015. He reportedly did not participate in the even more convincing 2020 election victory, which prompted the military coup.
Like many former NLD officials, Win Myint Hlaing participated in anti-military protests before being arrested in Yaksawk township in eastern Shan State in November last year.
A report on his arrest from the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar announced that Win Myint Hlaing led an anti-junta People’s Defense Force (PDF) in Magwe Region, in which capacity he acquired “arms, ammunition, and explosive devices” that were “used in explosion and terror acts in Magway Region.” Specifically, it accused him of being involved in PDF bombings of an education office, banks, and police stations.
The article, which was accompanied by a sinister-looking chart that claimed to link him to other suspected “terrorists,” said he was arrested “for his terror acts to undermine the peace and stability of the State.”
While Win Myint Hlaing’s case is worth noting for the length of his sentence, it is sadly not particularly notable. According to AAPP, at least 16,040 people have been confirmed detained since the coup, 12,830 of whom remain in prison. The military junta has also sentenced more than 100 pro-democracy activists to death, and while military regimes have historically commuted death sentences, executed four political prisoners in July.
In a May statement, the NLD stated that 917 party officials and members had been arrested and 701 were still being detained by the military. Among these, of course, is NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested on the day of the coup and has since been charged with multiple offenses. Here various convictions have added up to a sentence of 26 years in prison – and counting.
All this adds up to an attempt by the junta not simply to crush the resistance to its rule, but also to ensure that the NLD is ruled out of participation in the sham election that it is planning for 2023, at least in any recognizable or politically meaningful form.