Myanmar Junta Arrests Mandalay Lawyers Defending Political Detainees

By The Irrawaddy 15 February 2023

Myanmar’s military regime arrested four lawyers and two female assistants who were defending political detainees in Mandalay last week, according to local lawyers.

Three of those detained were identified as U Than Tun Aung, U Win Kyaw Soe and Daw Yin Mar Win. The identities of the others are not yet known. All six were detained on February 10, according to a lawyer close to them.

“They were acting for political detainees. We don’t know why they were arrested. Three were arrested on arrival at a court and two others were arrested while leaving another court,” said the source.

Junta personnel in plain clothes and driving private vehicles detained the lawyers. Their whereabouts are currently unknown.

Another lawyer was detained in the same week. A lawyer close to Daw Yin Mar Win said that the arrest of five lawyers within a week shows that the regime is increasingly targeting lawyers defending political detainees charged with incitement and under the Counter-Terrorism Law.

A Mandalay-based lawyer acting for political detainees said: “The regime is now targeting every lawyer defending political detainees. Some defendants were detained for no reason and there was no evidence against them. So when it looks like the courts have to release them after their defense lawyers proved their innocence in line with the law, the regime arrests the lawyers so that they can’t continue to defend their clients.”

He added: “While all the accused in political cases are given prison sentences, lawyers can copy their dossiers including their testimony and other documents. Those documents will serve as evidence [against the regime] in the future, and the regime is therefore targeting lawyers to erase the evidence.”

Pro-junta Telegram channels claimed that the four Mandalay lawyers and their assistants were detained because of their ties to People’s Defense Forces, which the regime has labelled as terrorist organizations.

With the latest arrests, the regime has now detained nearly 50 lawyers in Mandalay who were defending prominent National League for Democracy (NLD) figures and anti-coup protestors. Most lawyers face terrorism charges which carry jail sentences of ten years to life imprisonment.

Many lawyers were arrested outside courts including U Tin Win Aung, who was acting for ousted Mandalay Chief Minister and NLD vice chairman Dr. Zaw Myint Maung in his trial for alleged corruption. Daw Thae Su Naing and U Thuta, who represented anti-regime protestors, were arrested leaving Mandalay’s Obo Prison in June 2022.

Some lawyers were detained at their homes.

In April 2022, prominent lawyer Daw Ywat Nu Aung, who also represented Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, was arrested outside Obo Prison. After weeks of questioning at a military interrogation center, she was imprisoned and charged under Section 50(j) of the Counter-Terrorism Law for allegedly financing a local resistance group. She was given 15 years with hard labor in December.