On Thursday 19th December two Kachin civilians, Brang Yung and Lahpai Gam, had their sentences increased from 2 to 7 years in jail. They were already serving 2 year prison sentences after a verdict last month. It is not yet clear why their sentences were increased. Although Thein Sein promised to release all political prisoners by the end of this year, farmers, activists and ethnic civilians are continuing to be arrested, and put on trial.
Burma Campaign UK has highlighted Brang Yung and Lahpai Gam’s cases as part of the No Political Prisoner Left Behind Campaign and has been campaigning for their immediate unconditional release. They have already spent a year in detention.
Brang Yung and Lahpai Gam are Kachin farmers who were living in a refugee camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) with their families after fleeing from conflict areas in Northern Burma. To support their families, they requested permission from a camp supervisor to work as herdsmen outside the camp. In June 2012, while taking a lunch break at work, they were taken by the Burmese Army 37th battalion for questioning.
They were brutally tortured and forced to make false confessions about their connections with the KIA and different bombings in the area. According to family members, during the interrogations, they were repeatedly kicked, beaten till their scalp was cut open, forced to drink water mixed with fuel, burnt and Brang Yung’s arms were pierced with needles. They were also forced to have sexual intercourse with each other.
They were charged under Article 17/1 of the Unlawful Association Act. After more than a year in detention, they were sentenced to 2 years in November, and an additional 5 years were added to their sentence on 19th December.
“It is now very clear that Thein Sein does not keep his promises and it is very foolish for the international community to trust his words rather than his actions,” said Wai Hnin, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. “By befriending the military-backed government, the international community is abandoning political prisoners, and ignoring their suffering. It is time for them to step up and put pressure on the government to solve the problem of political prisoners once and for all.”