Written by Phyu Phyu Zin / Mizzima
Eight people arrested in Rakhine State for their refusal to be registered as “Bengali” during Myanmar’s nationwide population census were sentenced December 2 to two years in prison, according to Daw Wai Wai Nu, director of the Women Peace Network Arakan.
Maungdaw Township Court in Rakhine State sentenced the eight Muslim males aged 17 to 50 from Kyauk Hle Kar village in northern Maungdaw.
They were arrested during the March-April census taking and charged under Section 353 of the Penal code that covers assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharging his or her duty.
The eight males identify themselves as Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Rakhine State which is not officially recognized by the Myanmar government under the 1982 Citizenship Law.
During the trial, no lawyers were provided for the accused and family members were not allowed to attend as observers. Only the Border Guard Police complainants, prosecutors, accused and a judge were present in the court, Daw Wai Wai Nu told Mizzima.
Efforts by Mizzima to confirm the sentencing on December 5 failed. Maungdaw Township Court preferred not to comment. Rakhine State Advocate General U Hla Thein said he did not know about the case.
Women Peace Network Arakan is an NGO led by Daw Wai Wai Nu that works to ensure Arakan or Rakhine State is a place where all people can live together in equality, peace and prosperity. The state has been subject to bouts of serious communal violence over the last two years.