Aye Maung faces court in Sittwe after Mrauk U riots


SITTWE — A Rakhine leader facing treason charges linked to deadly riots appeared in a Myanmar court on Wednesday, a case that has aggravated ethnic tensions in Rakhine State.

Dr Aye Maung, once the chairman of the Arakan National Party, was arrested after the unrest for allegedly making an inflammatory speech against the government.

State-backed media said he railed against the government for treating Rakhine people as “slaves” and said it was the “right time” for the community to launch an armed struggle.

The following day ethnic Rakhine protesters briefly seized a government building in Mrauk U. Police opened fire on the mob and killed seven people.

Support more independent journalism like this. Sign up to be a Frontier member.

Aye Maung, who faces charges of high treason, incitement and unlawful association, has insisted on his innocence and accused local authorities of a politicised witch-hunt.

“We think that the administrative side wants to charge us. That’s why the judicial pillar must stand firmly,” he told AFP at the heavily-guarded court in Sittwe.

Some 100 protesters rallied outside the courthouse in support of both Aye Maung and fellow detainee and writer Wai Hin Aung, who faces the same charges for a speech at the same event.

“We feel very sorry to see Dr Aye Maung and Wai Hin Aung like this. They are working for the people,” 53-year-old Tin Phyu said.

Gabrielle Aron, an independent analyst in Myanmar, said a guilty verdict would be widely interpreted as a move to “politically oppress the Rakhine people”.

The proceedings “have the potential to further destabilise an already tense situation,” she added.

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Myanmar enters 2021 with more friends than foes
The early delivery of vaccines is one of the many boons of the country’s geopolitics, but to really take advantage, Myanmar must bury the legacy of its isolationist past.
Will the Kayin BGF go quietly?
The Kayin State Border Guard Force has come under intense pressure from the Tatmadaw over its extensive, controversial business interests and there’s concern the ultimatum could trigger fresh hostilities in one of the country’s most war-torn areas.

Support our independent journalism and get exclusive behind-the-scenes content and analysis

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters.

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar