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Updated on May 20, 2020 From The Irrawaddy

Myanmar Court Releases Muslim Boys With Orders Not to Break COVID-19 Restrictions

MANDALAY—A juvenile court in Mandalay has released two Muslim boys who violated the ban on gatherings after they signed an agreement promising they will not break the law again for three months.

The two boys, ages 12 and 13, were arrested together with 12 Muslim men who held a religious gathering at a house in the Aung Pin Lae area of Mandalay’s’ Chanmyathazi Township on April 10.

The 12 adults were sentenced by the Chanmyathazi court on May 8 to three months in prison under Article 30 (a) of the Natural Disaster Management Law.

Article 30 (a) states that a person who defies rules or regulations in an emergency or disaster situation shall be punished with a maximum of one year in prison and a fine.

Since the two boys are under 18, their case was submitted to the juvenile court and they were held at a youth detention center in Mandalay.

“The court returned the boys to their parents with the promise that they will not participate in such a gathering that defies the law for three months. If they do so, they each will have to pay 500,000 kyats [US$360] as punishment,” said U Myint San, the spokesperson of the juvenile court in Mandalay.

“They did nothing wrong but holding a small religious gathering. However, it was at the time of restrictions for COVID-19 and they were found guilty,” said the father of the 13-year-old boy, who accompanied his grandfather to the gathering in April.

The government banned mass gathering and gatherings of more than five people in March. The order was originally set to expire at the end of April but was then extended to May 15 and later extended again through the end of May.

In early April, mosques, churches, Hindu temples and pagodas across Mandalay Region were closed following the government’s announcement.

With the restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, annual religious ceremonies such as Easter, Ramadan and the Buddhist New Year have not been celebrated at places of worship as usual.

IMAGE: Downtown Mandalay during COVID-19 restrictions in April. / Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy
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