Two men have been sentenced to death for the rape and murder of an ethnic Arakanese woman that sparked recent sectarian clashes in western Burma.
The Provincial Court of Kyaukphyu Township, in northern Ramree Island of Arakan State, convicted the pair on Monday morning. They were arrested along with a third man two days after the May 28 slaying of Thidar Htwe, the authorities reported.
Ba Shein, a lawyer and Lower House MP for the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party who attended the sentencing, told The Irrawaddy that, “the verdict was made before noon under section 302(1c) [of the Burmese Penal Code]”
One of the original three men arrested, Shaun Shou (aka Htet Htet or Phyo Zayyar Kyaw), committed suicide in prison on June 9, state-run media reported on June 11.
The rape and murder case enflamed sectarian tensions between Buddhist Arakanese and Rohingya Muslims in the region with 10 Muslims pilgrims killed by a lynch mob in Taunggok Township on June 3 in apparent retaliation.
On the first day of the case being heard on June 8, a riot broke out as a group of Muslims returned from Friday prayers and torched dozens of Arakanese houses in Maungdaw Township.
Fighting spread all over Arakan in subsequent days including the state capital Sittwe. Official figures reveal that 50 people were killed, 54 people injured and more than 2,500 houses burned down in the ensuing violence. More than 30,000 people in the region have been forced from their homes as a result.
A 6 pm to 6 am curfew was imposed immediately after violence broke out in Maungdaw and a state of emergency was also declared in Sittwe.
The trial was heard in public with the victim’s family and other local residents present in the courtroom. The accused pleaded guilty on June 15.
Ba Shein said the case was concluded within a couple of weeks because there were plenty of witnesses. He also paid tribute to the local police force for their efforts in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The accused were charged under Burmese Penal Code section 376 for rape, section 302 (1c) for murder and section 392 for looting properties.
The two convicted on June 18, Hla Win (aka Marme or Yaw Pi) and Lu Lu (aka Myint Swe or Wushee), were sent back to Kyaukphyu Prison after the sentencing hearing.
They both have the right of appeal to the Union Supreme Court in Naypyidaw, added Ba Shein.