Myanmar junta sentences teacher to death on murder, terror charges

Nearly 100 people have been handed the death penalty for opposing the regime that seized power nearly two years ago

A junta-controlled court sentenced a primary school teacher to death last Friday for his alleged role in the killing of a suspected military informant in Ayeyarwady Region’s Myan Aung Township more than a year ago, according to sources. 

Kaung Khant Kyaw, 25, was sentenced after being found guilty of murder and terrorism in connection with the shooting death of Win Myint Aung, also known as Gyat Gyi, in the Myan Aung village of Thapyay Kone in October 2021.

A participant in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) against military rule, Kaung Khant Kyaw was arrested weeks after the killing and charged under Section 302(1)b of the Penal Code and Section 50e of the Counter-Terrorism Law.

An elected MP from Ayeyarwady Region condemned the sentence, calling it “absurd.”

“Handing death sentences to CDM teachers and students is just destroying the country’s future. It’s absurd that a group of power-hungry people is punishing innocent, educated youths,” said the lawmaker, who did not want to be named.

According to Kyaw Ye Lwin, a member of the Basic Education General Strike Committee’s secretarial team, Kaung Khant Kyaw was not permitted to meet with his family during his trial.

“Everyone’s extremely worried because they said no one would be allowed to see him again. The family is still trying their best to see him,” he said, adding that only one lawyer was allowed inside the court during sentencing.

He added that Kaung Khant Kyaw would likely be transferred from Hinthada Prison, where he was held during his trial, to Pathein Prison now that a sentence has been handed down.

The family is planning to appeal the sentence, he said.

Kaung Khant Kyaw is the first schoolteacher to be sentenced to death since the February 2021 coup. Nearly 200 others are currently in junta custody, according to Kyaw Ye Lwin, who described the sentence as a “threat” to others taking part in the CDM.

On Sunday, seven educational organisations released a statement condemning the military’s imposition of the death penalty on its opponents.

It also called for an end to the regime’s unlawful arrests and urged the international community to take action against the junta for its brutal suppression of dissent.

At least five other CDM education staff members, including a teacher named Swan Yee Htet who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, were also arrested in Myan Aung.

According to data compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a total of 97 people have been sentenced to death by the military council as of December 30, 2022.