Interview

Myanmar President Reveals Details of his Arrest

By The Irrawaddy 14 October 2021

Ousted President U Win Myint appeared at a special court in Naypyitaw on Oct. 12 to face incitement charges over a National League for Democracy (NLD) central executive committee (CEC) statement condemning the Feb. 1 coup.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and former Naypyitaw Mayor Dr. Myo Aung also appeared at the court for the same charge.

President U Win Myint for the first time revealed details of his detention on the morning of the Feb. 1 coup during his testimony. He said the military tried to force him to step down before the coup but he refused.

The president’s lawyer, U Kyi Win, told The Irrawaddy about his first public comments since he was detained.

What did President U Win Myint testify about his detention?

The court asked his age, address and occupation. He said he was 70 but that he didn’t even know where he was being held and that he lived at the presidential residence until Feb. 1.

And he said his occupation was president, which suggested he still considered himself to be the president.

He said soldiers entered his bedroom at around 5am on Feb. 1. He said he took his medicines, said his prayers, got dressed and went with them.

He was taken to the President’s Office and was asked to wait outside his office. Two generals asked him to resign on health grounds.

He said he was in good health and would not resign. One of the generals asked him to reconsider his decision, saying he could be harmed.

He said he would rather die than resign. He told them to act lawfully and not to stage a coup. He was taken back to his presidential residence.

At the residence, many soldiers had seized communication devices from the building. At noon, he was told he would have to move within three days. So he and his family started packing.

He said he was moved to a house in the ministers’ neighborhood on Feb. 4. He was moved again on May 23. He didn’t know where it to.

Many soldiers were waiting for them at the new house. He said he lost contact with the outside world on Feb. 1 and there was no television or newspapers.

He said it was unreasonable to charge him over the NLD statement which was issued after his detention and that he was not guilty.

Was he detained with his family?

All we know is he said he packed with his family. We assume they are still together.

To what extent will his testimony impact the case?

The prosecutors have charged him under Article 505(b) of the Penal Code for incitement.

They cannot prove he was involved in the NLD statement. The prosecutor failed to submit evidence.

In Myanmar, prosecutions can’t proceed unless the prosecutor can submit evidence. The president cited Article 64 of the Constitution: “If the president or vice-presidents are members of a political party, they shall not take part in its party activities.”

He said he strictly followed Article 64 and had not engaged in the party’s activities since he assumed the presidency.

He said the accusation that he was involved in the NLD’s statements on Feb. 7 and Feb. 14 was unsubstantiated because he was detained on Feb. 1. He said the charge was therefore baseless. He said they only charged him because he was on the NLD’s CEC. 

We heard the prosecutor asked him about the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, National Unity Government and Peoples Defense Forces. What was his response?

Prosecutors asked him if he knew about the organizations. He said he didn’t because he had been isolated since Feb. 1.

Did Daw Aung San Suu Kyi instruct you to inform the public about the testimonies made in court?  

Yes. She said the public must be informed about the trial. Trials are supposed to be held in public. She said people should know if a trial is unfair. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi asked us to release the testimonies.

What is your legal assessment of the case?

Legally, [U Win Myint] did not violate the law. The prosecution cannot prove he was involved with the statements.

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