Myanmar Military Detains More Than 1,500 Since Coup

By The Irrawaddy 5 March 2021

The Myanmar military has arrested more than 1,500 people including elected leaders, lawmakers, activists, protesters, heads of election commissions and striking civil servants involved in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), since the Feb. 1 coup.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which tracks detentions, at least 1,507 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced by March 4. Only 307 of the detainees were released and a total of 1,200 are still being detained, the AAPP said, adding that 61 individuals face warrants and are evading arrest.

Most Recent Detainees

174 student protesters in Yangon region, four social workers from the Mon Myat Sate Htar charity group, a DVB Reporter and three protesters in Pyay Township were among those arrested on Wednesday. On Thursday, three protesters in Pyay Township and a protest leader in Kyaukpadaung of Mandalay region were arrested.

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

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 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 government ministers and three deputy ministers, and 72 state and regional ministers have been detained, with many remaining in custody.

The renowned mayor of Mandalay City, Dr. Ye Lwin, was charged with incitement under Article 505(b) of the Penal Code.

Mandalay Region’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 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.

UEC chairman U Hla Thein. / The Irrawaddy

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.

Hundreds of protesters are being detained and injured during violent crackdowns by riot police and soldiers. The AAPP said around 400 civilians were in custody on March 4.

At least 254 student protesters, including numerous high school pupils and members and leaders of student unions, remain under detention.

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 

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, have opposed the regime and 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.

U Min Ko Naing. / The Irrawaddy

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

Journalists face lawsuits

At least 32 journalists have been detained while covering demonstrations in Yangon, Myitkyina, Monywa, Hakha, Magwe, Pathein, Pyay, Mawlamyine and other cities. 17 have been released and seven 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.

Two reporters are in hiding and face arrest: one from Kachin State who was charged under the Natural Disaster Management Law and another from Shan State charged under the Penal Code’s Article 505(b).

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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