Ex-political prisoner’s rearrest challenges legal topic in Burma
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Ex-political prisoner’s rearrest challenges legal topic in Burma

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) released a press statement dated 8-May-2013condemning the odd verdict imposed on former political prisoner Nay Myo Zin under Article 401(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Nay Myo Zin, charity worker and coordinator of the Myanmar Social Development Network, is the first former political prisoner to be ordered to serve the remainder of his original prison sentence. He has been ordered to serve 6 years of his previous 10–year sentence, according to the statement.

Nay Myo Zin is presently serving a 3-month prison term in Ma-u-bin prison under misleading accusations of disturbing a police officer. It was said that Aye Thaung, Ma-u-bin District Administrator, visited Nay Myo Zin in prison and read out the verdict on 7 May 2013. Without knowing any information about the extra sentence, Nay Myo Zin could not have a preparation for fairness with his lawyer.

However, the act of controversial verdict for Nay Myo Zin was happened on the same day he was scheduled to be released after paying fine money. A coalition of landless farmers delivered 20,000 kyats for fine imposed by the Pantanaw Court on 7 May 2013. However, before his release, the Ministry of Home Affairs send an order concerning Nay Myo Zin to serve 6 years of his remaining 9-year punishment under Article 401(1).

Nay Myo Zin was from Intake 39 of the Defence Services Academy (DSA). In 1998, he became a platoon leader in Infantry Battalion (19) in Swar township in Pegu Division. In 2003, he served as second in command of the No. 262 Military Provost Unit (Military Police) in Taung-gyi in Shan State. In 2005, he decided to quit from the service and retired in May 2005.

In 2009, he started helping some activities of the NLD youth wing. After Aung San Suu Kyi’s released from house arrest in November 2010, he became involved in the NLD’s movement to some extent. He was also an active member of the youth wing’s Blood Donation Network group.

As said by the AAPP(B), Nay Myo Zin was arrested in late January 2013 while supporting a farmer’s union located in Pantanaw Township, Irrawaddy Division . The union, which represents an estimated 20,000 farmers, organized a demonstration calling for the return of confiscated land and the restoration of farmer’s rights on 13 January 2013. Nay Myo Zin, along with 3 farmers, were arrested and accused under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Procession Act.

Nay Myo Zin was additionally accused under Section 500 of the Code of Criminal Procedureand given the option of 3-month imprisonment or payment of a 20,000 kyats fine on 2 May 2013. Nay Myo Zin refused to pay the fine, claiming the formal accusations are baseless and unlawful.

“The case of Nay Myo Zin sends a strong message to thousands of released political prisoners who have similarly been released under Article 401 (1): you are not free. His sentence greatly harms the human rights of released political prisoners and their ability to openly and freely engage in democracy and the national reconciliation process,” said Secretary of AAPP (B) Tate Naing.

President Thein Sein addressed the first regular session of the Burmese Parliament on 30 March 2011. In his speech, he said, “To safeguard the fundamental rights of citizens in line with the provisions of the constitution in the new democratic nation is high on our government’s list of priorities. We guarantee that all citizens will enjoy equal rights in terms of law, and we will reinforce the judicial pillar.”

But, now, people are suspicious of President’s words. Nay Myo Zin, 38, a retired Burmese military officer who works as a volunteer coordinator of the Myanmar Social Development Network, was sentenced on Tuesday by the Ministry of Home Affairs to serve 6 years of his residual 9-year punishment as a refund under Article 401(1).

If one carefully looks into the Article 204 (a) of the 2008 Constitution, it says, “The President has the power to grant a pardon.”  

He was initially imprisoned for 10 years under the Electronics Transactions Act in March 2011, making him the first political prisoner under President U Thein Sein. He was conditionally released on 13 January 2012 through the President’s pardon which is a constitutional compliance. But now, Nay Myo Zin has been rearrested to serve the previous punishment under Article 401(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Then, a legal question is appeared that – Can Article 401(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure overpower the Article 204 (a) of the 2008 Constitution. Can Home Minister’s order overrule the Article 204 (a) of the 2008 Constitution?  Many people get confused concerning ‘presidential pardon’ which is powerless by the home minister’s order.

Nonetheless, AAPP (B) strongly denounces Nay Myo Zin’s custody and call on the Government to release him immediately and unconditionally. It also urges the Government to lift restrictions on all former political prisoners and restore their basic human rights, including freedom of movement.