May 2, 2013

Political prisoner Tun Aung has had his prison sentence increased by six years, despite British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire MP asking Burmese government ministers for his release.

The decision of the Burmese government to take court action to increase his sentence raises yet more doubts about British government claims that by befriending the government of Burma they will have more influence to improve human rights.

Burma Campaign UK has learned that two weeks ago Tun Aung was given an additional six years on top of his previous prison sentence of eleven years. He is now serving a total prison sentence of seventeen years. He will now not be released from prison until 2029, aged 81.

In October 2012 Burma Campaign UK highlighted the case of Tun Aung as part of our ‘No Political Prisoner Left Behind’ campaign. Our original media release is available here:

Tun Aung had originally been charged under five different counts and sentenced to 11 years in prison in September 2012. However, the prosecution argued that the court sentence on three of the five charges was too lenient and appealed to review his sentence. The prosecution won the appeal and six additional years have been added to Tun Aung’s previous sentence.

Hugo Swire MP used the fact that he had raised the case of Tun Aung with the Burmese government in defence of criticism that his first visit to Burma in December 2012 was to lead a trade mission, rather than putting human rights as the top priority.

On Tuesday 7th May, another court hearing will take place for an increased sentence for the other two charges, including The Emergency Provision Act 5 (e). If successful even more years could be added to his current sentence.

Tun Aung is a 65-year-old medical doctor and a respected community leader from Maungdaw, Arakan State. He was arrested in June 2012 as part of the Burmese government’s efforts to arrest and detain Muslim community leaders to stop them from talking to international observers and journalists. He is suffering from a pituitary tumor and needs regular medication but he has been denied medical treatment.

“The British government asked for Tun Aung’s release and instead the Burmese government is increasing his sentence.” said Wai Hnin, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. “This should be a lesson to Hugo Swire not to naively believe everything he is told by the government of Burma. The new soft British policy on Burma isn’t delivering results, and political prisoners are paying the price.”

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