An 88-year-old woman was released from prison on Thursday afternoon after serving a month for squatting.
Mi Mi Than, a judge from Nay Pyi Taw City Development Court, sentenced Tin Hlaing from Lewe Township to a month in Yamethin prison under Section 26 of the City Development Committee Law on February 27.
“We want to request [the authorities] to relax [the law] and release all the people who have been charged under Section 26. These people did not want to break the law, and they had nowhere else to stay, so they were living [on the land] as citizens. The authorities should have handled this with compassion and pragmatism. They can’t solve this problem just with the law or by force. We heard that the plan to charge the people under Section 27 after their release from prison, where they were charged under Section 26, will be relaxed. These laws are not fair. The people who have been charged have been living [on those lands] for many years, even before the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, was built. The government should consider this,” said Lower House MP Naing Ngan Linn.
“Elderly people should not have been imprisoned. Such an unsympathetic action should not be taken against them. The court is like a mechanism that oppresses the people. They don’t see a human as a person. They don’t consider age. These people are not thieves or robbers. They didn’t harm anyone. The judiciary can give a penalty, but the penalty should be balanced with the crime. It should not be revenge, but to improve [the offender]. This kind of case should not have happened,” said Thein Than Oo, a high court lawyer from the Myanmar Lawyers’ Network.
When Tin Hlaing was given the one-month sentence last month, she fainted in the court.
“I was treated well inside the prison because of my age. The chief jailer told me that I shouldn’t have been given such a penalty. I told him that I didn’t want to stay in prison. I feel bad that I was sentenced to prison. I couldn’t eat nor sleep. I will meet with the president so that I will not be charged under Section 27 again after already being imprisoned. I will meet with him and tell him of my sufferings. I will never move out until [the authorities] give me another place to stay,” said Tin Hlaing, the elderly woman who was sentenced to prison.
“The prison did not give us prior notice about her release. How can she come back home with only the prison release document and Ks 200 (US$0.20)? My mother is very old. She can’t come back home on her own. That’s why I have been waiting for her on her release date like this,” said Myint Myint Htay, daughter of Tin Hlaing, who was waiting outside the prison on the day of her release from prison.
Last year, Daw Nyo, an 82-year-old woman from Shansu village, was imprisoned for one month under Section 26. She is currently facing another charge under Section 27 for refusing to demolish her home.
Tin Hlaing is also likely to face the same charge if she continues to live at her home after her release from prison, according to Khin Maung Nyo, a high court lawyer.
“In other countries, including the those in Southeast Asia, elderly people over the age of 80 are taken care of at nursing homes with government funding. In our country, they live on their own lands, but they are regarded as squatters, and elderly women over the age of 80 are sent to prison. This is very inappropriate,” said Myo Tayzar Maung, a local resident of Nay Pyi Taw.
Mi Mi Than, the judge from Nay Pyi Taw City Development Court, also sentenced Aung Win, 74, and Nga Chun, 67, to a month in prison in January for violating Section 26.
I feel so sorry for 88 years old Grandma and 82 years old Grandma. They are in jail simply because they can’t move from their houses. They got no where to stay …. This is simply showing we need social welfare support for those who are not capable to work because of old age. Government should sort out this not by putting everyone in jail but in other ways like working through department of social protection, Housing assistance, etc…. If Burma wants to alleviate poverty, this is the example why Burma needs social protection for the people urgently. photocr.eleven media