BURMA: Woman and man unfairly convicted for alleged contact with outlawed group


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-038-2010
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Judicial system, Rule of law, Torture,

Dear friends,

Even as the military regime in Burma is preparing for a general election, it is continuing to torture and imprison perceived opponents with impunity. In this appeal the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) brings you details of another flagrantly unfair and politically predetermined trial, this time of a man and a woman accused of having contact with an anti-government group based in Thailand. The two, Ma Thanda Htun and Maung Nyo, were unlawfully detained for over a month before being brought to a closed court where they were convicted without evidence to five years in prison each.


In August 2009, Special Branch police arrested both Ma Thanda Htun, 27, and Maung Nyo, 32, in Mandalay and accused them of having travelled to Thailand to meet with members of a Buddhist monks’ group that is in opposition to the military dictatorship in Burma.

Although both of the accused had been involved in arranging for support, together with religious groups, for victims of Cyclone Nargis in 2008 the police had no sound evidence to link them to alleged crimes. Instead, they took the accused to an interrogation centre where they kept them illegally for over a month, during which time they allegedly tortured the two to get false confessions.

After that, the police transferred the two to Rangoon where they were put on trial inside the central prison, at Insein, even though according to the law they should have been tried in Mandalay, where they were arrested. After a patently unfair trial, in March 2010 they were found guilty and sentenced to five years in jail.

Further details of the case are in the sample letter below, as usual.


The AHRC has this year issued a number of appeals on evidence-free cases in the courts of Burma. See the case of Ngwe Soe Linn, jailed for non-existent video footage (AHRC-UAC-023-2010); two cases involving 20 people who were allegedly tortured and tried without evidence (AHRC-UAC-016-2010; AHRC-UAC-011-2010); concocted charges against human rights defender Ma Sandar and her husband (AHRC-UAU-007-2010).

American citizen Kyaw Zaw Lwin (a.k.a. Nyi Nyi Aung), on whom the AHRC issued an appeal (AHRC-UAC-004-2010) also spoke of being tortured and being subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment after his repatriation to the US following heavy intervention from the government of his adopted country: see Democratic Voice of Burma news report.

Although these cases are mainly against political activists and human rights defenders, they are indicative of wider and deeper systemic problems across institutions in Burma that are a consequence of decades of military rule there. For further discussion see articles and special reports on the article 2 website:http://www.article2.org/search.php again search for Burma/Myanmar; and, see the 2009 AHRC annual report on Burma.

To browse hundreds of other Burma-related appeals issued by the AHRC, go to the appeals homepage and type “Burma” or “Myanmar” into the search box: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/.

The AHRC Burmese-language blog, Pyithu Hittaing, is also updated constantly for Burmese-language readers, and covers the contents of urgent appeal cases, related news, and special analysis pieces.  


Please write to the persons listed below to call for the release of Thanda Htun and Maung Nyo. Please note that for the purpose of the letter, the country should be referred to by its official title of Myanmar, rather than Burma, and Yangon rather than Rangoon.

Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Myanmar, and independence of judges and lawyers, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, as well as the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia calling for interventions into this case.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ___________,

MYANMAR: Unlawful detention and unfair trial of two persons

1. Maung Nyo, 34, English tuition teacher, residing in East Thirihema Ward, Chan-aye-tharzan Township, Mandalay
2. Ma Thanda Htun, 27, tour guide, residing in Mingalar-yenyunt Ward, Aungmyay-tharzan Township, Mandalay

Special Branch police involved:
1. Police Captain Myo Thant, Serial No. La/127891 (prosecuting officer)
2. Inspector Thet Tin, Underground Unit, Internal Affairs Department
3. Inspector Khin Myint, Serial No. La/126459, Myawaddy Special Detachment
4. Inspector Htun Oo Thein, Serial No. La/139240, Investigations, Myawaddy
5. Sub-Inspector Win Kyaw, Serial No. La/151155, External Affairs Department
6. Sub-Inspector Myint Hlaing, Serial No. La/149703, Upper Myanmar Division
7. Sub-Inspector San Lin, Mandalay

Charges and trial: 
Yangon Western District Court (Special Court), Judge U Tin Htun (Serial No. Ta/1780, Deputy District Judge No. 3) presiding, sentenced on 24 March 2010 to three years each under section 13(1) of the 1947 Immigration (Emergency Provisions) Act, and two years each under section 7 of the 1988 Organisations Law, to be served concurrently

I regret to learn that two more persons have been sentenced to imprisonment in Myanmar after being illegally detained and unfairly tried in violation of not only international but also domestic law, and I call for their urgent release.

According to the information that I have been given, Special Branch police, including those officers listed above, accused the two persons, Maung Nyo and Ma Thanda Htun, of in 2008 and 2009 having travelled illegally to Thailand where they met with members of a group of Buddhist monks opposed to the government of Myanmar, for which they have been sentenced to five years’ jail.

However, the detention and trial of the two accused were seriously flawed, for the following reasons:

1. The police took the two accused into custody on 3 August 2009. But a case was not opened against them until 11 September 2009. During this time they were illegally detained at an interrogation centre where they were allegedly tortured to extract confessions.

2. There was no firm evidence against either of the accused. Aside from the confessions evidently extracted through torture that are legally inadmissible, the police had no material evidence of any crimes. The 11 prosecution witnesses consisted only of the police, a couple of low-ranking council officials and two witnesses to the search and seizure of property at time of arrest. There were no independent or credible witnesses to any crime. Also, witnesses that should have been called, namely, officials from the immigration office in Myawaddy, were not: instead they just sent documentary information, which is not acceptable as primary evidence because it denies the defence of the right to make a cross-examination.

3. The trial was conducted in a closed court in violation of the Judiciary Law of 2000 under which hearings should be held in open court. Actually, the authorities in Myanmar have repeatedly and flagrantly violated this provision of their own law on orders from the Supreme Court even though the court has no power to issue such orders, which are anyhow contrary to international standards on the conduct of trial.

4. The two accused are residents of Mandalay and they allegedly committed the crimes at the border of Thailand, but they were incorrectly brought to the central prison in Yangon for the trial without correct authorization (Criminal Procedure Code, sections 177, 178).

In view of the above facts, I call for an urgent review of this case and for the immediate release from custody of these two persons. I also call for an investigation into the alleged torture and illegal detention conducted by the Special Branch police in this case with a view to criminal prosecutions being launched against those officers concerned in these crimes.

Finally, I take this opportunity to remind the Government of Myanmar of the need to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to places of detention, in accordance with its globally recognized mandate, without any further delay. I find it remarkable that at a time that the government of Myanmar is claiming to prepare for a general election and a changeover of power to civilian authorities, it is continuing even to deny the ICRC access to prisons where thousands of persons accused of anti-government activities are being held, reportedly in sub-human conditions. The continued imprisonment of these persons and denial of access to them does nothing to give any confidence that the planned election will be either free or fair, or bring about any genuine change for the better in Myanmar.

Yours sincerely


1. Maj-Gen. Maung Oo
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +95 67 412 439

2. Lt-Gen. Thein Sein
Prime Minister
c/o Ministry of Defence
Tel: + 95 1 372 681
Fax: + 95 1 652 624

3. U Aung Toe
Chief Justice
Office of the Supreme Court
Office No. 24
Tel: + 95 67 404 080/ 071/ 078/ 067 or + 95 1 372 145
Fax: + 95 67 404 059

4. U Aye Maung
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
Office No. 25
Tel: +95 67 404 088/ 090/ 092/ 094/ 097
Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106

5. Brig-Gen. Khin Yi
Director General
Myanmar Police Force
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663
Fax: +951 549 663 / 549 208

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : AHRC-UAC-038-2010
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Issues : Arbitrary arrest & detention, Judicial system, Rule of law, Torture,