2 get death for info leak

2010-01-08 10:58

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Yangon - Two officials have been sentenced to death by a court in Myanmar for leaking information, official sources said on Friday, in a case reportedly involving secret ties between the ruling junta and North Korea.

The men were arrested after details and photos about a trip to Pyongyang by the Myanmar regime's third-in-command, General Shwe Mann, were leaked to exiled media last year, the website of Thailand-based magazine Irrawaddy reported.

"Two officials got the death sentence and another one was jailed for 15 years for leaking information. They were sentenced at the special court in Insein Prison on Thursday," one source said on condition of anonymity.

The two men sentenced to death were Win Naing Kyaw and Thura Kyaw while the jailed man was Pyan Sein, the sources said, without giving further details of the case.

Win Naing Kyaw is a former military officer and Thura Kyaw and Pyan Sein worked at the ministry of foreign affairs, Irrawaddy said.

The trip by Shwe Mann, who is also the joint chief of staff of the Myanmar armed forces, involved procuring military arms and discussing tunnel-building and other matters, Irrawaddy reported.

In June a group of exiled Myanmar activists released leaked pictures of what they said was a secret network of tunnels built by North Korean experts inside Myanmar, raising alarm over the country's links with nuclear-armed Pyongyang.

The Democratic Voice of Burma said most of the huge, vehicle-width tunnels were constructed around the junta's new capital, Naypyidaw.

Details of the tunnels and of Shwe Mann's trip prompted the United States to express concerns about Myanmar's relations with North Korea, even as Washington pursued a new policy of engagement with the military regime.

During a visit to Thailand in July, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the communist state could be sharing atomic technology with military-ruled Myanmar, posing a major threat to the region.

The two Myanmar officials were sentenced to death under the state emergency act for leaking military secrets, Irrawaddy said, citing sources in Insein Prison, a notorious jail in Yangon where hundreds of dissidents are kept.

It said Win Naing Kyaw also received a 20-year sentence for violation of the Electronic Act and holding illegal foreign currency. The act prohibits sending information, photos or video damaging to the regime abroad via the internet.

Dozens of other officials in the defence and foreign ministries were arrested after the leaks but the status of their cases is not known, the magazine said.

Myanmar severed ties with Pyongyang in 1983 following a failed assassination attempt by North Korean agents on then-South Korean president Chun Doo-Hwan during his visit to the Southeast Asian nation.

The bombing killed 17 of Chun's entourage including cabinet ministers while four Myanmar officials also died, but with both countries branded "outposts of tyranny" by the United States they later sought to rebuild relations.

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