Myanmar Junta Rounds Up NLD Members After Pipeline Attack

By The Irrawaddy 16 February 2022

More than 40 National League for Democracy (NLD) members and supporters, including the brother of the civilian defense ministry’s secretary, have been arrested by the regime forces in Natogyi Township, Mandalay Region, this week.

The arrests followed a resistance attack on regime personnel providing security at the China-backed oil and gas pipelines in the township.

Myanmar’s junta has been urged by China since March 2021 to protect the 973km-long pipelines which link China with the Rakhine coast when anti-regime protesters called for a boycott of Chinese products and for the pipelines to be targeted, believing Beijing had a hand in the coup.

On Monday, Natogyi People’s Defense Force (PDF) attacked 13 regime security guards at a pipeline service station using two grenades at the site about 6km east of Natogyi town.

The regime forces responded with tighter security and arrests across the township, bringing in reinforcements.

On Monday evening the regime forces arrested Daw Tin Moe Nwe, in her 50s, and U Nyeing Chan Aung, who are both central executive committee members of Myingyan District NLD, Ko Aung Thu, an NLD member, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

Ko Sithu Aye Swe, the younger brother of ousted NLD’s lawmaker U Naing Htoo Aung, who is permanent secretary of the civilian National Unity Government defense ministry, was also arrested in Natogyi on Monday evening.

On Tuesday, more than 30 NLD members and supporters from Nanontawboe village and six Ka Daung villagers in the north of the township were arrested, according to residents.

No reason was given for the arrests.

“We have no comment about the junta. The arrests again prove the junta is persecuting all NLD members and supporters,” said Ko Aung Thu of Natogyi’s NLD branch.

Residents said regime forces continue to raid villages and there are checkpoints at the town’s entrances.

A Natogyi PDF resistance fighter told The Irrawaddy that regime forces are arresting innocent civilians who were not involved with the attacks in the township.

“They should not arrest innocent civilians. Come and arrest us if they can,” said a resistance fighter, who was involved in the pipeline attack. “We are not afraid of dying. We would be pleased if the regime forces were forced out of our land.”

Natogyi PDF also claimed to have killed two regime personnel and burned four junta motorbikes during an ambush in the township on Sunday.

In May 2021, 28 people were sentenced to 20 years in prison with hard labor over arson attacks on Chinese-backed factories in the Hlaing Tharyar industrial zone, Yangon.

The junta’s military tribunal took urgent action against the 28 after Beijing demanded that the junta target suspects and protect Chinese citizens and interests.

Amid intensifying armed resistance against the regime, China last month urged the NUG to ensure the resistance movement does not harm Chinese investments.

The military regime is facing daily attacks from PDFs and many ethnic armed groups across the country.

As of Tuesday, 1,553 people have been killed and another 12,158 people, including democratically elected government leaders, have been detained by the junta since the February 2021 coup, said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights group compiling the deaths and arrests.

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