Two Burmese men who attempted to abduct and interrogate the alleged lover of their friend’s wife in a case that the prosecution called “abhorrent and horrifying” were each jailed and fined on Tuesday (17 April).
Zaw Min Hlaing, a 40-year-old Singapore Permanent Resident, and Phyo Min Naing, 34, were jailed four years and three and a half months and four years and three months, respectively, for their roles in the case. Zaw was also fined $4,000 and disqualified from driving all classes of vehicles for a year for breaches of the Road Traffic Act and the Motor Vehicles Act. Phyo was fined $6,000.
The two pleaded guilty on Monday (16 April) after retracting an earlier plea that they made in November last year midway through their trial.
Phyo and Zaw were part of a group of four Myanmar nationals, who tried to kidnap Aye Maung Maung Thet, 29, in June 2015. The case had made headlines when police discovered the gruesome torture tools that the quartet planned to use on Aye, including a meat mincer, chainsaw, chopper and cable ties.
Myanmar national Win Kyaw Kyaw Aung, also known as Aung Aung and the mastermind of the plan, is still on the run as the 33-year-old left Singapore after the attempted abduction went awry. The fourth member of the group, Yae Wynnt Oaung, 33, was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal in December 2015.
The facts of the case
Aung concocted a plan to have Aye, whom he believed to be his wife’s lover, abducted and interrogated about his alleged affair with Aung’s wife. Aung also planned to have Aye killed and his body disposed of at the chalet.
Aung recruited Zaw and Phyo to help him in the plan to kidnap Aye, which included renting a van and a bungalow at Aloha Changi chalet. In May 2015, at the behest of Aung, Zaw rented a unit near Aye’s residence to monitor Aye.
On 21 June 2015, at around 10am, Phyo and Zaw went to a multi-storey carpark along Pasir Ris Street 71 and parked their van beside Aye’s car. They then lay in wait for Aye. When Aye appeared in the evening, Phyo grabbed Aye from behind and pushed him towards the van, causing Aye’s spectacles and handphone to fall.
Aye struggled and called for help, prompting Zaw to also grab Aye from behind. During the struggle, Phyo used a stun device on Aye but failed to subdue him. The struggle continued for a few minutes until Aye spotted some passers-by and shouted for help. The pair released Aye and drove off in the van. Aye then ran towards the passersby before calling the police for help.
Aung was later informed that the abduction failed. After meeting with the duo and giving them instructions, Aung fled to Yangon while the two remained behind.
The police managed to track the van based on the information provided by Aye. When Zaw turned up at the rental company to return the van, he was placed under arrest. He led police to the chalet where Phyo and Yae were arrested. The police also seized various items from the chalet, including luggage bags and the aforementioned torture tools.
‘A mistaken sense of loyalty’
In arguing for a jail term of five years, three months for Zaw and five years, six months’ for Phyo, the prosecution said, “The entirety of the grand scheme as envisioned by Aung, and which the accused persons had set out to make a reality, is absolutely abhorrent and horrifying.”
“One cannot even begin to imagine the fate that the victim might have suffered had the stun gun not failed the accused persons at the outset, and should the accused persons have been successful in their abduction attempt,” added Deputy Public Prosecutor John Lu.
Acting for Zaw, lawyer R S Bajwa said, “It was a mistaken sense of loyalty and commitment to a friend that led his client to eventually participate in the attempted abduction.”
He said Zaw was in “two minds” at the time of the attempted abduction. “He was initially hesitant to carry out the abduction but the events happened so quickly that he found himself involved in the attempt after Phyo had grabbed Aye from behind,” added Bajwa.
Lawyer S Radakrishnan, who represented Phyo, said that his client had been informed by Aung that all the latter wanted to do was confine Aye while Aung searched Aye’s house for evidence of the affair.
“Phyo, thinking that this was a relatively simple task, and knowing his role to be akin to a ‘muscle man’, agreed to help Aung,” said the lawyer. “Phyo had never believed that Aye was to be abducted and wrongfully confined in a chalet where he would be killed and his body disposed of.”
The lawyer pointed out that the kidnap attempt was “amateurish” and “shoddy”, arguing that it was not “greatly premeditated”.
Relatives of the two men were present in court on Tuesday and spoke to the pair before they were led away. Zaw’s father and sister, and Phyo’s mother, would fly to Singapore from Myanmar every time the pair made an appearance in court.
Speaking to Yahoo News Singapore, Zaw’s father Zaw Sein Hlaing said that this was the tenth time he had flown in to see his son. The 68-year-old said in Mandarin that it was hard for him to comprehend the court proceedings as they were conducted in English.
Dressed in a white shirt and a longyi, a traditional Burmese dress, the retiree said he believed the sentence “will be fair”.
For kidnapping, Phyo and Zaw could have been jailed up to 10 years with fined or caning.