A Burmese hip-hop artist is jailed for 20 years for criticizing Myanmar's military leaders

BANGKOK (AP) — A 38-year-old Burmese hip-hop artist has been found guilty of criticizing Myanmar's military-controlled government and sentenced to 20 years in prison, a family member said Thursday.

The sentence given Wednesday to Byu Har, also known as Min Oat Myanmar, appeared to be the most severe so far given to any of the celebrities detained for criticizing the military rulers who seized power from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021.

Byu Har was arrested at his apartment in Yangon on May 24, hours after he strongly criticized Min Aung Hlaing, the head of the military government, and the electric power minister. In a livestream on his Facebook page, he alleged they had failed to supply enough electricity to Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city.

In the livestream he called Min Aung Hlaing “incompetent” and the electricity minister a “fool”, saying electricity had been better supplied during Suu Kyi's government.

Five days after his arrest, state-run media announced he had been taken into custody for incitement and spreading propaganda that could destabilize the state.

In Myanmar, also known as Burma, prolonged power outages have become a major burden.

Between March and early June, daily power cuts to save energy were doubled to eight hours a day in Yangon, though are now back to four hours daily.

A family member of Byu Har told The Associated Press on Thursday that she received information about the verdict against him from the country’s notorious Insein Prison on Wednesday.

She said he had been charged with incitement for allegedly causing fear, spreading false news or agitating against a government employee, as well as under the state statute for treason, but that it was unclear what he had been convicted of.

She spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested herself.

Local media also reported the verdict.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an advocacy group that monitors arrests in Myanmar, about 4,000 people have been killed and 24,410 people arrested since the army takeover.

Celebrities have been specifically targeted for supporting protest movements or showing sympathy for civilians killed by the military.