Fire at Sittwe court delays appeal of prominent Rakhine MP


YANGON — A fire has badly damaged the court in the Rakhine State capital Sittwe hours before it was due to hear an appeal from Pyithu Hluttaw MP and former chairman of the Arakan National Party, Dr Aye Maung, who is facing charges of high treason and incitement.

The fire began about midnight on January 9 and was extinguished about an hour later, Myanmar Fire Service Department said in a social media post.

A video circulated on social media showed the courthouse engulfed by flames. The fire badly damaged not only the main building but dozens of confiscated motorcycles that had been stored in the compound.

Aye Maung’s scheduled hearing, which was an appeal to a higher court to have his charges dismissed, has been delayed, sources confirmed to Frontier.

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Aye Maung was arrested in Sittwe in January last year and in September was charged with high treason and incitement, over a speech in which he reportedly accused the Bamar-dominated National League for Democracy government of treating the Rakhine people like “slaves”.

The speech came the same day that nine people died in a violent clashes between police and Rakhine protesters in Mrauk U, the former capital of the Rakhine kingdom, on January 16 last year. The violence erupted after the authorities banned a gathering to mark the fall of the Rakhine kingdom to the Konbaung dynasty in 1784.

Aye Maung was elected to the Amyotha Hluttaw in 2010 but was defeated in a bid to move to the Rakhine State Hluttaw in 2015. He returned to the national legislature in 2017 after winning a by-election for the Pyithu Hluttaw seat of Ann, which he holds as an independent after resigning from the ANP in late 2017.

Since his arrest he has applied to form a new political entity, the Arakan Front Party, which received Union Election Commission approval in October.

The following month, Aye Maung’s son, U Tin Maung Win, won a by-election for the Rakhine State Hluttaw seat of Rathedaung-2, easily defeating the candidate from the ANP.

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