Sagaing region resident sentenced to 10 years for allegedly funding a PDF

Aye Thiri was accused of giving just over 2 dollars to the People’s Defense Force.
By RFA Burmese
2022.11.23
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Sagaing region resident sentenced to 10 years for allegedly funding a PDF A file photo of 27-year-old Aye Thiri, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison under Myanmar’s Counter-Terrorism Law.
Citizen journalist

UPDATED AT 3:42 P.M. ET ON 11-23-2022

A Sagaing region resident has been sentenced to ten years in prison under anti-terrorism charges for allegedly giving the equivalent of U.S. $2.30 to a People’s Defense Force (PDF).

On Nov. 22, a junta court sentenced Hkamti township resident Aye Thiri, 27, under Section 50 (j) of the Counter-Terrorism Act for providing 5,000 Kyats to the PDF via the Kpay money transfer system.

“It was unfair that she was arrested for donating money,” a family member told RFA Burmese.

“I want to appeal, but the appeal would not be successful, it would just cost money. I don’t know what to do. I just want her to be released,” they said, adding that the family are worried because Aye Thiri is in poor health and was unconscious at times during her arrest.

She was seized by police and soldiers at her home on Feb. 21, this year and was held at Hkamti district police station until her court appearance.

The Counter-Terrorism Law enacted in 2014 was amended by the State Administration Council on Aug. 1, 2021.

The post-coup amendment states that those who provide financial support to a terrorist organization can be sentenced to a minimum of three years and a maximum of life in prison and a fine.

On March 29, this year a court sentenced 19-year-old Saung Hnin Phyu from Dawei township, in Tanintharyi region, also accusing her of supporting PDFs via Kpay.

More than 1,000 homes torched

News of Aye Thiri's sentencing came amid reports by residents that the military has torched a combined 1,068 houses in 13 villages in two townships in Sagaing and Magway regions over the course of a week beginning Nov. 6 over alleged links to the PDF.

Residents told RFA that beginning on Nov. 6, around 400 military officers and pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee militiamen marched in 3 columns raiding villages on the outskirts of Sagaing's Myaung township and Magway's Yesagyo township on the border between the two regions where the Chindwin and Ayeyarwaddy rivers meet, setting homes on fire.

The raids in Sagaing destroyed 300 homes in Myaung township, 239 in Pa Rein Ma village, 94 in Na Nwin Kaing village, 84 in Su Lay Kone village, 73 in Myit Thar village, 61 in Shwe Ta Chaung village, 23 in Na Gar Paul village, 15 in Thu Htay Kone village, and 12 in Sin Hlaung village; while those in Magway torched 146 in Yesagyo's Shwe Hlan village, 12 in Mar La Kar Chan village, and two homes each in Sin Chay Yar and Myay Sun Taw villages.

A resident of Ma Mwin Kaing village told RFA on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal, that because villagers were unable to return to the area for more than a week, their crops became dehydrated and died.

"Our plants need to be watered in a timely manner, but we couldn't do it as we had to flee," they said.

"All our groundnuts, chili and pea plants are dead. These crops are planted on elevated farms, so we couldn't reach them and they weren't able to survive for 7-8 days without water. The farmers are all saying that they will be impossible to replant .. Our hand-operated water pumps that nearly every house uses were also destroyed in the fires."

Residents said the junta troops attacked and burned down villages in the area over their "suspicion of a PDF presence" after PDF fighters captured a boat carrying military more than 15,000 sacks of rice rations and fuel on Nov. 5.

They said that since the raids, villagers are in "urgent need of food, shelter, clothing, medicine, and other supplies."

Attempts by RFA to contact junta officials in Sagaing and Magway for comment on the arson attacks went unanswered on Wednesday, however junta Deputy Information Minister Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun has previously denied that the military has set fire to civilian homes.

The Myanmar-based independent research group Institute for Strategy and Policy said in a statement earlier this month that between the Feb. 1, 2021 military coup and Oct. 31 this year, the military had torched more than 38,568 homes and buildings in 81 townships around the country -- 8,866 of which were located in Magway region.

This story has been updated to include reports of military arson attacks on civilian homes in Sagaing and Magway regions.

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