Thursday, 21 November 2019

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Engineer held over bomb attack denied legal aid

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The electrical engineer in Insein prison linked by police to last month’s Buddhist water festival blasts in Rangoon has been denied access to his lawyer by Special Branch police officers, his lawyer said on Friday. 

Phyo Wei Aung, 31, from Sanchaung, Rangoon had agreed to appoint lawyer Kyaw Hoe and signed a power of attorney letter, which was endorsed by prison authorities. But Special Branch police intervened to stop them passing the letter to the lawyer, which he had submitted to the prison department on May 12 to be signed by his client.

A power of attorney transfer must be endorsed by prison authorities after it has been signed by a client.

“The prison authorities told me they had already endorsed the power of attorney but couldn’t hand it over to me as Special Branch officers had prohibited the action,” Kyaw Hoe said. “They said they would pass on the letter when the Special Branch lifted its prohibition.”

The police early on April 23 came to the engineer’s house at 55th Street, Pazundaung Township, Rangoon Division. He was arrested and remanded to Insein prison in absentia without being allowed to appear in court on May 17. The date of the next hearing is June 1.

Phyo Wei Aung was transferred from the Special Branch’s Aungthapyay Interrogation Facility in Mayangone Township, Rangoon, to Insein prison on May 3.

At a press conference early this month, Police Chief Brigadier General Khin Yi claimed that the three explosions at the X2O water-festival pavilion in Kandawgyi Park, Rangoon on April 15 were part of a grenade attack by four members of the Vigorous Burmese Student Warriors (VBSW) activist group. He claimed Phyo Wei Aung had been their scout and lookout.

The blasts killed 10 people, including a high-ranking military officer, and injured 170.

An unexploded bomb found at the scene was to be triggered by a mobile phone, Khun Yi claimed, adding that the other three suspects remained at large.

But Phyo Wei Aung’s family and friends rejected the police chief’s claims against him, calling the allegations blatantly false and citing an alibi. One relative said Phyo Wei Aung was at his Yankin Centre worksite with his labourers and staff and security guards from the shopping centre throughout the day of the blasts.

“All of what has been said is incorrect. He was at his worksite during the Thingyan holidays to complete work at the Yankin Centre,” the relative told Mizzima.

On October 1, 1999, five armed members of the previously unknown VBSW group stormed Burma’s embassy in Bangkok and took 89 hostages, according to the BBC and the Encyclopaedia of Terrorism. They demanded the junta free all political prisoners and enter talks with the National League for Democracy. NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi had condemned the raid. They released their hostages the next day and were allowed to flee to the Thailand-Burma border by helicopter in a deal with the Thai authorities.


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