Myanmar Military Detain More Than 1,200 Since Coup

By The Irrawaddy 2 March 2021

More than 1,200 people, including elected leaders, lawmakers, activists, protesters, heads of election commissions and striking civil servants involved in the civil disobedience movement (CDM) have been detained in Myanmar since the February 1 coup.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which tracks detentions, at least 1,213 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced by March 1. Only 300 of the detainees were released and more than 900 are still being detained, the AAPP said, adding that 61 suspects face warrants and are evading arrest.

Elected leaders

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 100 National League for Democracy (NLD) members are in custody, including members of state and regional branch offices and youth members. The military has issued arrest warrants for 21 elected representatives, including 17 of those who have formed the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Union Parliament) to counter military rule. An economic adviser to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Professor Sean Turnell, an Australian national, is also being detained.

13 chief ministers in detention and five charged

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 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.

148 election officials detained

A total of 148 Union Election Commission (UEC) officials across the country remain in detention.

UEC chairman U Hla Thein. / The Irrawaddy

UEC chairman U Hla Thein was 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.

Ministers in detention

The military has detained Union ministers and state and regional cabinet members since the coup. Eleven Union ministers and three deputy ministers government and 71 state and regional ministers have been detained, with many remaining in custody.

Mandalay’s minister of natural resources and the environment, U Myo Thit, who signed an order on behalf of the detained chief minister stating that civil servants will be on public holiday until the democratic government returns, has been charged.

21 speakers detained

All elected parliamentary speakers and their deputies in all states and regions, except Rakhine and Shan states, 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 Rakhine State speakers are selected by ethnic Rakhine politicians and military allies appointed the Shan State speakers.

Activists, writers and monks behind bars

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 and writers Maung Thar Cho and U Htin Linn Oo are being detained. Four monks, well-known military critic in Mandalay U Thawbita and Shwe Nya War Sayadaw, Sayadaw U Arriyawuntha and U Pyin Nar Wuntha, are also being held.

Military hunts protesters and strikers

In face of the growing resistance nationwide, the regime has stepped up detentions of anti-regime protesters and civil servants taking part in the CDM.

An anti-regime demonstrator being arrested by the police during a crackdown in Mandalay. / Zaw Zaw / The Irrawaddy

Hundreds of protesters are being detained and injured during violent crackdowns by riot police and soldiers. The AAPP said more than 300 civilians were in custody on March 1.

Around 80 student protesters, including numerous high school pupils, members and leaders of student unions, remain under detention, while more than 100 student protesters have been released.

Civil servants, who went on strike against the junta, are also being targeted. At least 44 striking civil servants, including doctors, engineers, teachers, railway staff and administrative staff, were arrested and charged in February.

More than 150 civil servants have also been dismissed or suspended from their jobs for involvement in the CDM.

High-profile arrest targets  

U Min Ko Naing. / The Irrawaddy

Those facing arrest warrants include U Min Ko Naing, Kyaw Min Yu (also known as Ko Jimmy) and Ma Nilar Thein, veteran democracy activists from the 1988 uprising, singer Linn Linn, a former bodyguard of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myo Yan Naung Thein, the director of Bayda Institute for a Just Society, presenter Maung Maung Aye and Facebook personality Ei Pencilo.

Celebrities, including actors PyaeTi Oo and Lu Min, directors Na Gyi, Wyne and Ko Pauk and rapper Anaga, opposing the regime face arrest warrants. The regime said they use their popularity to call on people to join the CDM and street protests. Among them, the Myanmar Academy Award winner Actor Lu Min was arrested on Feb. 20 while in hiding. 

Protests against the regime and the CDM continue in several cities.

Journalists face lawsuits

Ma Kay Zon Nway from Myanmar Now being detained by police on Saturday while covering a protest in Myaynigone, Yangon. / The Irrawaddy

At least 29 journalists have been detained while covering demonstrations in Yangon, Myitkyina, Monywa, Hakha, Magwe, Pathein, Pyay, Mawlamyine and other cities. Six have been charged under 505(a). The non-bailable charge carries up to three years’ imprisonment for causing fear, spreading fake news and agitating for others to commit criminal offenses against a government employee.

On Monday night, a reporter from the Democratic Voice of Burma was forcibly taken from his home in Myeik, Tanintharyi Region. The arrest came after he live-streamed police and soldiers shooting at houses and destroying furniture and other possessions in their ongoing crackdown. He also reported on a pregnant woman in Myeik who was beaten and her home looted by the security forces.

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