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Taxi driver sentenced to death for Rangoon murder

On 9 February, women's rights advocates in Yangon rallied against a taxi driver accused of the rape and murder of a 26-year-old employee of the national Food and Drug Administration. (Photo: DVB)

The taxi driver accused of the rape and murder of a young woman in January was sentenced to death today in the Rangoon Eastern District Court.

Myo Zaw Oo was convicted of murder under section 302(1) (c) of the Burmese Penal Code. Prosecution lawyers had applied for the accused to face additional charges under sections 377 and 376, which relate to rape specifically, but the court denied the request.

Conviction under section 302(1) (c) carries a minimum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment, plus a fine. The accused, though sentenced to death, is unlikely to face execution. Burma is a de-facto abolitionist state – with Amnesty International recording no known executions since 1989, with the exception of one death penalty upheld last year. The NGO reports that 55 death penalties were handed down between 2007 – 2014, however former President Thein Sein commuted the sentences to life imprisonment or lesser terms, in 2014.

Shwe Yee Win, a 26-year-old Food and Drug Administration employee, hailed taxi driver Myo Zaw Oo from Hledan Centre for her journey home to Dagon Township. Her body was found in the early morning of  21 January near Nga Moe Yeik Creek in North Dagon.

The accused denied raping Shwe Yee Win, however, the court deemed charge under section 302 (1) (c) appropriate given injuries found on her genitals, despite the absence of sperm on her body, according to testimony by a forensic doctor.

Defence lawyer Maung Maung Soe deemed the judgment “unfair”, telling DVB outside the court his client should face jail time with “hard labour” instead.

“This punishment looks like revenge on the accused. I will try to appeal for the client,” he said.

Shwe Yee Win’s father, who witnessed the verdict, told media he was satisfied with the result.