ABSDF Leaders Get Two Years for Unlawful Association

ABSDF Leaders Get Two Years for Unlawful Association

The charges stemmed from the fact that they were living in KIA-controlled territory.

A court in Kachin State’s Mohnyin Township has sentenced two senior members of the All-Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) to two years in prison for violating Section 17(1) of Burma’s controversial Unlawful Associations Act.

Aung Swe Oo, the vice chairman of the ABSDF’s Northern Burma branch, and Maung Oo, also of the ABSDF-NB, received the sentence from Judge Zaw Lin Tun on Thursday.

The two men were arrested late last year when they traveled to Mohnyin Township to attend the funeral of a former ABSDF comrade. The charges against them were laid by Capt. Thiha Soe of the Burmese army’s Infantry Battalion 15, based in Mohnyin.

All charges were dropped against a third man who was also arrested at the time. Maung Kane (Kane Myint), who is not a member of the ABSDF, was granted an unconditional release.

Four months will be deducted from the sentences of Aung Swe Oo and Maung Oo for time served.

A lawyer representing the pair said that his clients would file an appeal against the ruling.

“Their families are very upset about the sentence,” said defense lawyer Tin Hlaing. “We will appeal this case in a higher court.”

Around two dozen people were present during Thursday’s sentencing hearing, including former members of the ABSDF.

The unlawful association charges stem from the fact that Aung Swe Oo and Maung Oo were residing in an area controlled by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

However, the defense argued that they were traveling with full documents in accordance with the terms of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, to which the ABSDF is a signatory but the KIA is not.

Critics of the colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act have accused Burma’s army and government of using it to silence the media and persecute members of ethnic minorities.