UPDATE (Burma): Further details of cases against person accused of treason & other offences


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-008-2007
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Death in custody, Freedom of assembly, Rule of law,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received further detailed documentation on the cases against one of the eight men appealing their conviction for treason in Burma (UA-017-2007). The accused, Sai Nyunt Lwin, was the general secretary of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, a registered political party. However, he was sentenced to 85 years for treason, sedition and other offences. The legal process to convict him and the others involved in the case was highly flawed, as discussed further in this update.?


As described in the appeal issued by the AHRC last week, nine persons in Burma were accused of treason because they established a new umbrella group called the Shan State Advisory Expert Group with the objective of working to end decades of civil war in northeastern Shan State (bordering China, Laos and Thailand). The military government accused the new body of being a terrorist organisation that allegedly produced subversive documents. The accused were sentenced to treason by a tribunal without legal jurisdiction, on inapplicable charges, without proper evidence or the right to cross-examine witnesses that had appeared for the prosecution. The penalties were all wrongly compounded, so that the minimum sentence given was 75 years in jail.

Among the persons convicted were the leadership of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, including Sai Nyunt Lwin. In addition to the charges against the other accused, Nyunt Lwin was convicted of sedition on the same grounds and evidence twice over, and also on the charge of subversion under a special security law. The preliminary hearings opened in May 2005 and the trial began the following month. The court found the accused guilty in October. He was sentenced to 85 years in jail in total.

The two charges of sedition relate to information found on Nyunt Lwin’s computer on the setting up of a federal state in Burma, rather than the current unitary arrangement. However, the judgment was flawed because the charge of sedition requires action to aggravate the public against the government, whereas none of the material found on the computer had been publicised.

The charge of subversion relates to a meeting that the accused says he did not attend. The claim of non-attendance was not countered by the prosecution and nor was evidence shown to suggest that he was there. However, the state said that other colleagues of the accused were at the meeting and acted on his behalf. But this is not enough to convict a person of subversion.

There were, therefore, no grounds for the convictions.?

For additional comments on this and related cases, please refer to the original appeal (UA-017-2007) and the AHRC Burma webpage: http://burma.ahrchk.net


Please write to the Attorney General and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to demand that the accused obtain his legal rights, either by way of his case being reviewed and the accused released, or by upholding appeals against the convictions.

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 Rangoon, Yangon.

Please also see the sample letter in the original appeal for the case against all of the accused (UA-017-2007).

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


Dear ___________,

MYANMAR: Wrongful conviction of Sai Nyunt Lwin for treason, sedition & subversion

Details of convicted person: 
Sai Nyunt Lwin, 52, General Secretary, Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (and others)
Complainants: Police Lt-Col. Khin Htay & Police Captain Aung Myint Than, Special Branch, Myanmar Police Force 
Convictions: Two counts of sedition, Penal Code sn. 124A, Felony Nos. 234 & 239/2005; subversion, Anti-Subversion Law (The Law Protecting the Peaceful and Systematic Transfer of State Responsibility and the Successful Performance of the Functions of the National Convention against Disturbances and Opposition), No. 5/96, sn. 4, Felony No. 235/2005; high treason, Penal Code sn. 122(1), Felony No. 233/2005; registered under Supreme Court Order No. 37/2005

I am writing to you to express my serious concerns about the illegal conviction and imprisonment of Sai Nyunt Lwin and others for treason and other offences because they established the Shan State Advisory Expert Group during a meeting in November 2004 between the government of Myanmar and armed groups aimed at obtaining a ceasefire.

The accused was tried and sentenced under a tribunal established through the Northern Yangon District Court from 5 May 2005 (preliminary hearings), with proceedings being held on the grounds of the Insein Central Prison. The October 2 judgment found him guilty on all counts and gave a compounded sentence of 85 years in prison.

In addition to the inapplicability of the charge of high treason under Penal Code sn. 121(d) due to the absence of a constitution in Myanmar, the lack of jurisdiction of the tribunal in violation of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) sections 177, 178 & 526 and Supreme Court Directive Nos 7/56 & 3/69, the denial of the right to cross-examination under CrPC sn. 256 and Supreme Court Directive No. 3/66 and the problematic use of evidence, there are a number of other areas of specific concern regarding the two charges of sedition and one charge of subversion against Sai Nyunt Lwin.

The two charges of sedition relate to information found on Nyunt Lwin’s computer. This information had not been distributed to the public. However, the charge of sedition under sn. 124A of the Penal Code requires that the accused be proved to have attempted “to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection” towards the government or union. As the accused in this case had not distributed the said material nor used it for such a purpose, I fail to understand how he was convicted under this section.

Additionally, the two convictions were based upon the one set of identical and flawed evidence, allegations and court testimonies. Both the law (Penal Code sn. 71, CrPC sn. 403) and precedent make plain that it is not possible to slice up a single illegal act (in this case the alleged forming of an organisation) into different parts and punish an accused more than once for wrongdoing, even where it constitutes an offence under more than one law. Furthermore, to do so amounts to a flagrant violation of the principles established in the 2000 Judiciary Law and the fundamental legal principle of no double jeopardy (and as per sn. 22 of the 1973 Interpretation of Expressions Law).?

As for the charge of subversion, which relates to the alleged attendance of the accused at a meeting on 7 February 2005 that he says he did not actually attend, the claim of non-attendance was not countered by the prosecution and nor was evidence shown to suggest that he was there. The conviction was based solely on the argument that other colleagues of the accused were at the meeting and acted on his behalf. But sn. 3 of the Anti-Subversion Law requires that the accused (as an individual, rather than as a member of an organisation), that person should have committed or abetted the act of subversion. In this case, as there was no evidence presented to the tribunal to support such claims against the accused, I again fail to understand why he was convicted.

I find it shameful that the court system in Myanmar can be so blatantly misused and perverted for the purpose of patently political objectives. I urge that the case against the accused be thoroughly reviewed and he be released from detention by way of appeals or revision of the case.

In this respect I remind you of the comments of the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, to the Human Rights Council on 27 September 2006, in which he said that

“The capacity of law enforcement institutions and the independence and impartiality of the judiciary have been hampered by sustained practices of impunity. I am also very concerned by the continued misuse of the legal system, which denies the rule of law and represents a major obstacle for securing the effective and meaningful exercise of fundamental freedoms by citizens. Grave human rights violations are indulged not only with impunity but authorized by the sanction of laws. In that respect, I consider especially as a matter of grave concern the criminalization of the exercise of fundamental freedoms by political opponents, human rights defenders and victims of human rights abuses.”

These views about your legal system are widely held abroad. The fact is that your courts and laws will continue to lack all credibility until you demonstrate a commitment to the basic principles of the rule of law, not merely the artifices of the law. I again urge you to do so with regards to this accused.

Yours sincerely


1. U Aung Toe
Chief Justice
Office of the Supreme Court
101 Pansodan Street
Kyauktada Township
Tel: +951 372 249 / 253 066

2. U Aye Maung 
Attorney General
Office of the Attorney General
101 Pansodan Street 
Kyauktada Township
Fax: + 95 1 371 028/ 282 449 / 282 990


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

2. Maj-Gen. Maung Oo
Minister for Home Affairs
Ministry of Home Affairs
Office No. 10
Tel: +95 67 412 040/ 069/ 072
Fax: +95 67 412 016/ 439

3, Brig-Gen. Khin Yi
Director General 
Myanmar Police Force
Tel: + 95 1 549 196/ 228/ 209

4. Mr. Patrick Vial
Head of Delegation
No. 2 (C) – 5 Dr. Ba Han Lane
Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, 8th Mile
Mayangone Township
Tel.: +951 662 613 / 664 524
Fax: +951 650 117
E-mail: yangon.yan@icrc.org

5. Professor Ibrahim Gambari
Undersecretary General for Political Affairs
United Nations
New York
NY 10017
Tel: +1 212 963 5055/ 0739
E-mail: gambari@un.org

6. Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro
Special Rapporteur on Myanmar
Attn: Mr. Laurent Meillan
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: + 41 22 9179 281
E-mail: lmeillan@ohchr.org

7. Mr. Leandro Despouy
Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers
Attn: Sonia Cronin
Room: 3-060
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9160

8. Ms Leila Zerrougui
Working Group on arbitrary detention
Attn: Mr Miguel de la Lama
1211 Geneva 10

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (ahrchk@ahrchk.org)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UP-008-2007
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Issues : Arbitrary arrest & detention, Death in custody, Freedom of assembly, Rule of law,