Interview

Cowardly Myanmar Junta Jails Our Families: Activist

By The Irrawaddy 6 July 2021

Ma Su Htet Wyne, five, was the youngest person detained by Myanmar’s junta as it seeks to suppress the anti-regime movement. She is one of many relatives detained by the regime’s forces while activists have been in hiding.

The security forces were looking for Ko Soe Htay, who is accused of leading anti-regime protests in June in Mogoke, Mandalay Region. As he was in hiding, his wife and their two daughters, Ma Theint Sandi Soe, 19, a third-year law student, and Ma Su Htet Wyne were jailed.

Ma Su Htet Wyne was detained in prison for more than two weeks and released on June 30. But Ko Soe Htay’s wife, Daw Kyi Kyi Khaing, and their elder daughter remain in detention. And Ma Theint Sandi Soe’s health is reportedly suffering.

Ko Soe Htay told The Irrawaddy about his daughters’ ordeal in prison.

How was your family detained?

They were detained on June 13. They were taken forcibly, handcuffed and taken away with only the clothes on their backs. I lost contact with them. We could not give them anything, food or clothes. [The guards] drove off anyone sending things to my family.

We heard Ma Theint Sandi Soe is sick in prison.

I was told by someone inside the prison that she is suffering, perhaps because of the interrogation. They told me her life is at risk. She has rheumatoid arthritis. She needs medication and has to see a doctor once a week. She suffers from joint pains when it is cold. I heard she was handcuffed and forced to kneel for hours during interrogation. I don’t know if she is suffering from its consequences but I heard her life is at risk.

What did Ma Su Htet Wyne tell you about her experience in prison?

She said she was given little food inside the prison and she was fed from a plastic bag [instead of from a plate]. She only speaks about it before bed when she feels strong enough. She won’t answer my questions. She doesn’t want to talk about it. She became gloomy once I asked her so I wait for her to talk. Last night she said she was wondering if her mother and sister had fallen asleep.

How do you feel about their arrest because the security forces could not find you?

It is cowardly and a symbol of dictatorship. They are still looking for me and questioning people who talked to me over the phone about my whereabouts.

Is it difficult for Ma Theint Sandi to receive medical treatment?

I can’t visit them. I can’t send anyone on my behalf. They don’t allow anyone to meet them. I am looking for ways to help with my colleagues. We will try anything.

How do you feel about their continued detention?

They were detained unlawfully. Whatever the [regime] says becomes the law now. To retain power, they will do anything and call it the law. There is no law.

As a father, I feel sorry that my family is being detained unlawfully. But I want to turn sorrow into strength, not just for me. I have empathy for other families who are facing the same thing as me and for grieving parents who have lost their children. I urge them to turn their sorrow to strength and continue fighting until the Spring Revolution succeeds.

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