Myanmar’s former Religious Affairs Minister in court

The former Religious Affairs Minister in Myanmar was charged in court on July 22 with undermining national security after he allegedly objected to a raid by Government officials from his own department against the Mahasantisukha monastery in Yangon’s Tamwe township which then led to protests by monks.

Hsan Sint is being held in Yamethin prison after he was sacked from the Government Cabinet and following the raid on June 10 which saw 300 riot police capture 20 monks – 15 of whom were released the next day.  Five other monks were given bail on June 20 following public protests. The monastery’s abbot Pyinya Wuntha was visiting Japan when the raid took place.

Hsan Sint, who is believed to be suffering from poor health, was initially charged with corruption after the incident took place. The corruption charge was later dropped which led to the release of eight other people originally detained with the former minister.

His lawyer Tin Htun told RFA’s Myanmar Service: “He said he is ready to face the charges against him and appeal a conviction if necessary, as he has evidence that could show he is innocent. We will do what we have to [to prove his innocence] according to law.”

The next court hearing against Hsan Sint will be held on July 30.

Myanmar’s government has faced international criticism for its handling of religious conversions and marriages of people from different faiths with legislation planned to protect the country’s majority Buddhist identity. The treatment of Muslim Rohingyas in the western Rakhine state with 250 people killed has also been noted by human rights groups since religious violence broke out in 2012.

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