Mother of Prominent Protest Leader Detained by Myanmar Junta Fears for his Health

By The Irrawaddy 21 April 2021

Ko Wai Moe Naing, a prominent anti-regime protest leader in Monywa, Sagaing Region, was beaten and dragged away by junta forces after his motorcycle was rammed on April 15. He remains in military custody and his relatives are not allowed to visit him.

The 26-year-old, who has been at the forefront of anti-regime rallies in Monywa since very soon after the military’s Feb. 1 coup, faces murder and sedition charges, according to the Monywa District Lawyers Network. Fears have grown for his safety and health since a photo apparently showing him to have been badly tortured went viral the day after his arrest.

The Irrawaddy interviewed Ko Wai Moe Naing’s mother, Daw Moe Sandar Kyu, about the current situation.

Ko Wai Moe Naing and his mother Daw Moe Sandar Kyu.

Do you know where Ko Wai Moe Naing is being held now?

He was taken to North-Western Command the day he was detained. The following day, his friends from the General Strike Committee told me about the charges filed against him.

Have you been allowed to meet Ko Wai Moe Naing? How is his health?

I haven’t been allowed to meet him, and I still don’t know what the exact state of his health is. He hasn’t been allowed to see anyone yet, including his lawyers. There are his uncles in Monywa. They have not yet been allowed to meet him. To be more precise, we don’t even have the chance to try and meet him.

Does Ko Wai Moe Naing have health problems? Are you worried about his health?

He is overweight and has obesity-related health problems. He has been suffering from high blood pressures since his early twenties. He has to take medication often. He is not a very fit person. So I am worried about his daily life in military custody.

He has been detained for a week now and is still being interrogated. As his mother, I am extremely worried about his health.

We heard from the lawyers that Ko Wai Moe Naing faces three charges? Can you confirm that?

Yes, that is the case. The lawyers told me that he would be brought to trial for the most serious of the three charges first. I would like to meet him then. I have nothing to say if he is given the same punishment as others for rising up against a government that has seized power. But I don’t want him to be punished for crimes that he has not committed.

I fret about his health and how much he might be suffering. If he has injuries, he should be given medical treatment. If possible, I want to meet him. I would like to request to meet him. He is my only son.

By the most serious charge, you mean the murder charge?

Yes. I heard that they would handle that case first.

How did he happen to be charged for murder?

It was what the junta announced. If he had really committed murder, he would have run away. He has not fled because he has a clear conscience. I believe in him and I can guarantee that he did not commit murder.
As I believe in him, I think all the people in Monywa can attest that he did not commit the crime. My understanding is that he can’t be pronounced guilty without strong evidence. I will try my best to prove that he didn’t commit murder. It is an unfair charge.

Ko Wai Moe Naing (center) after receiving a YSEALI Academic Fellow certificate in the US in 2017.

What do you want to say as the mother of an activist who has been actively participating in the protest movement against the military regime?

This [his participation in anti-regime protests] might harm him. But speaking from my heart, this is a mass revolt against injustice. And it is led by the young people. It is not only my son who is rising up against the junta, but all the young people are rising up with a single voice.

I made him get into the habit of reading since he was young. As reading has broadened his horizons, he thinks about things deeply. So when he went to university he got involved in the activities of the student union, and later he was attracted to politics.

What he does are good things and, as a mother, I allowed him to engage in activities apart from those that could be harmful to him.

What else would you like to say?

I don’t want anyone, not just my son, to be accused unfairly and subjected to an unnecessarily long interrogation. I can’t bear it. I would like to request that my son is remanded as soon as possible and that he receives medical treatment. I would like to meet him if possible. I will try my best to prove his innocence.

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