Thursday, February 18

American Sentenced in Burma

A Myanmar court Wednesday sentenced a naturalized US citizen to three years in jail with hard labor on charges of committing forgery, illegal possession of foreign currency and refusing to revoke his Myanmar passport.

Judge Nyo Tun of the Yangon North District Court found Nyi Nyi Aung guilty on three counts and sentenced him to three years in jail.
'We will appeal his case at the Division Court soon,' said Nyan Win, the defendant's lawyer.

Nyi Nyi Aung, a former Myanmar student activist who fled to Thailand after the 1988 crackdown on the fledgling pro-democracy movement in his homeland, was arrested Sep 3 at Yangon International Airport.

He was initially accused of holding undeclared currency, a crime committed by most visitors entering Myanmar, where foreign currency is strictly controlled and the legal exchange rate is six kyat to the dollar, compared with 1,000 kyat to the dollar on the ubiquitous black market.

Authorities later added charges of holding forged documents and refusing to cancel his Myanmar passport.

Nyi Nyi Aung, who lived in Thailand from 1988 until 1994, was eventually granted refugee status by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and migrated to the US where he became a naturalized citizen in 2005.

In the US, he was a campaigner for democracy in Myanmar, which has been under military rule since 1962.

Nyi Nyi Aung reportedly entered Myanmar four times on his US passport between 2005 and 2009, meeting with various dissident groups.

Prior to his arrest in September, the junta had made it known he was a wanted man in Myanmar for his anti-government activities.

Friends speculated that he had returned to visit his mother, a political prisoner who is suffering from thyroid cancer.

There are an estimated 2,100 political prisoners in Myanmar jails or under house arrest.

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