In Military-Ruled Myanmar, Political Detainees Mark 100 Days Behind Bars
By The Irrawaddy 11 May 2021
Before dawn on Feb. 1, Myanmar’s military detained State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, and other officials of the government led by the National League for Democracy (NLD). Parliamentary speakers at both the Union and state and regions level were also detained during the takeover.
Senior leaders and central executive committee members of the NLD, prominent activists, writers, and monks were among about 150 arrested on the first day of the coup.
And now 100 days later, they remain under detention in prisons and military custody. Only a few of them were put under house arrest. There are also those whose condition and whereabouts remain unknown.
In the weeks following the coup, the regime escalated its abductions by expanding its targeted groups to anti-coup protesters and civil servants involved in the civil disobedience movement (CDM). That expansion came after street protests and the nationwide spread of the CDM in which civil servants refused to work under the military regime.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which tracks detentions, at least 4,916 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced as of May 10. Of those, 3,843 are still being detained, the AAPP said. Warrants have been issued for another 1,561 who have gone into hiding to evade arrest.
Those on the wanted lists of the junta included celebrities and social influencers, striking doctors and nurses, education staff and members of students’ unions.
Here are prominent figures who remain behind bars 100 days after the military seized power.
Elected leaders, NLD members
State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, Vice-President U Henry Van Thio and the Union Parliament speakers are among those detained since Feb. 1.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Myint face various charges and potentially long prison sentences.
More than 200 NLD members are still in custody, including government ministers, lawmakers, members of the party’s central executive committee, heads and members of state and regional offices as well as youth members. Many of the NLD members have been political prisoners before, having been jailed under the previous junta.
Among the detained NLD members is U Han Thar Myint, party secretary, who faces state defamation charges. The 73-year-old, who has had surgery for prostate cancer and has suffered related health problems, was placed in Insein Prison after a month of detention at a military interrogation center.
According to sources, jmost of the regional government ministers and NLD members detained in Yangon Region are being held in Insein Prison.
The wife of the NLD’s high-profile spokesman Monywa Aung Shin said she has heard nothing about her husband’s whereabouts and condition for 100 days. The 75-year-old has asthma and always needs to carry an asthma inhaler, said his wife, Daw Kay Thwe Moe. He was arrested at his home before dawn on Feb. 1, and his wife was told he was wanted for questioning and would not be held long.
“Now it has been 100 days, and I heard nothing about him,” she said.
All 14 state and regional chief ministers appointed by the NLD were detained on Feb. 1. On Feb. 26, the Chin State chief minister was released while the 13 others are still in military custody, prison or under house arrest.
Mandalay Region chief minister Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, Magwe Region’s Dr. Aung Moe Nyo, Tanintharyi Region’s U Myint Maung, Sagaing Region’s Dr. Myint Naing and Rakhine State’s U Nyi Pu have been charged with incitement under Article 505(b) of the Penal Code which carries up to two years in prison.
Mandalay Region chief minister Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, who is also a vice chair of the NLD, faces additional charges of violating COVID-19 protocols. Kachin State chief minister Dr. Khet Aung also faces charges of violating COVI-19 protocols.
The military has detained Union ministers and state and regional cabinet members since the coup. Those arrested on Feb. 1 include eight Union government ministers and one deputy minister along with about 50 state and regional ministers, advocate generals and auditor generals.
All elected parliamentary speakers and their deputies in all states and regions, except Shan State, have been taken into military custody or put under house arrest since Feb. 1. Only seven have been released and 14 remain in detention. The Shan State speakers are those from a military proxy party.
Activists, Singers and Writers
Prominent democracy activist Ko Mya Aye, filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, student activist Ko Min Thway Thit, writer and Yangon City Development Committee member Daw Than Myint Aung, Singer Saw Phoe Khwar and writers Maung Thar Cho and U Htin Linn Oo have been detained since Feb. 1.
Veteran pro-democracy activist Ko Mya Aye, who has been a political prisoner before, faces charges of hate speech which carry up to two years in prison for a 2014 email about his work with ethnic armed organizations, Burman ethno-nationalism and the importance of working together for democracy. He is being held in Insein Prison. Zayar Lwin, a student activist who was released from prison in April, told local media that writer Maung Thar Cho is not in good health after undergoing military interrogation. He said that the writer, who is a strong NLD supporter, was forced to renounce his public remarks.
Union Election Commission chairman U Hla Thein was also detained on Feb. 1. The military claimed mass voter list irregularities to justify its coup and announced that it would hold a new election. The UEC rejected the military’s fraud claims in the November general election, in which a clear majority of voters supported the NLD.
Military Critic Monks
Three monks in Mandalay known for their criticism of the military — U Thawbita and Shwe Nya War Sayadaw and Sayadaw U Arriyawuntha of Mandalay’s Mingyi Monastery — were among those arrested on Feb. 1. U Thawbita has been sentenced to two years imprisonment for “defaming” the military on the Internet.
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