A local court in Arakan State has handed out jail sentences to 12 Arakanese men charged under the Unlawful Association Act on Wednesday.

Local police officer Khin Maung confirmed the punishment to The Irrawaddy, stating that the men had violated Article 17 (a) and (b) of the law. Nine of the accused were sentenced to three years in prison and three received five-year sentences in the Kyauktaw Township Court.

They were arrested in December 2015 following clashes between government troops and the Arakan Army (AA) on Yum Chaung Mountain in Kyauktaw Township, according to police.

The men come from Arakan State’s Kyauktaw, Minbya, Mrauk U, Yathedaung, and Buthidaung townships and are aged between 20 and 25, according to social organizations assisting them throughout the legal process.

“I have no comment about the punishment. Even if I complain, [the military] would not care because they got the testimony they wanted,” said Tun Aye, a Kyauktaw Township community elder.

He accused the military of abusing the suspects instead of adhering to legal protocol once they were arrested.

“I wish the accused had been sent to prison or to the police station for interrogation after the arrest,” Tun Aye said. “But, instead, the military arrested and interrogated them until they got the testimony they wanted. When the accused got to the police station, they could barely walk,” he added, implying that they had been tortured in the interim.

Renewed clashes occurred between the Burma Army and the AA last March and April in and around Chin State’s Paletwa Township. When the fighting broke out again in December in Arakan’s Kyauktaw Township, over 300 local villagers were forced from their homes.

Following the clashes, dozens of locals from various Arakan State townships were arrested after it was alleged that they had associated with unlawful groups like the AA. Including those in the latest sentencing, 24 Arakanese men are being charged under the Unlawful Association Act, with 12 more awaiting trial in the Kyauktaw Township Court.

Yet Khine Thu Kha, a spokesperson for AA, estimates that about 60 locals in Arakan State have been arrested for suspected ties to the Arakan Army since December. He claimed that some of those detained did have links to the non-state armed group, but maintained that the majority are being unjustly held.

Link: http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/twelve-locals-sentenced-suspected-ties-arakan-army.html