Burma

Myanmar Military Detains More Than 2,100 Since Coup

By San Yamin Aung 15 March 2021

More than 2,100 people have been detained by the military junta since the Feb. 1 coup. The detainees included elected leaders, lawmakers, activists, protesters, heads of election commissions and striking civil servants involved in the civil disobedience movement (CDM).

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which tracks detentions, at least 2,156 people had been detained, charged or sentenced by March 14. Only 319 of the detainees were released.

Most recent detainees

The regime has recently targeted elected MPs and members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) although more than 100 party members are already being held. At least 30 NLD members have been detained so far in March.

Student protesters across the country have also been detained as the junta continues its violent crackdowns on protests. On March 3 alone, more than 500 students, mostly in Yangon Region, were detained. Many remain in detention. Yaypu Sayadaw U Eaindaka from Mogoke, Mandalay Region, was detained on March 11 and charged with sedition under the Penal Code’s Article 505(b).

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

Junta alleges corruption against 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. Last week, the regime launched corruption probes targeting the two leaders and NLD chief ministers, including Dr. Zaw Myint Maung of Mandalay Region, Dr. Myint Naing of Sagaing Region and Dr. Aye Zan of Mon State.

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.

UEC chairman U Hla Thein. / The Irrawaddy

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 and advocates and auditors 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.

14 state and regional speakers and deputies in detention

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.

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 Shwe Nya War Sayadaw, Sayadaw U Arriyawuntha, U Pyin Nar Wuntha and U Eaindaka, known as Yaypu Sayadaw, are also being held.

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 37 journalists have been detained by the military regime and 10 of them were charged. Media offices were raided and the publication licenses of Mizzima, the Democratic Voice of Burma, Myanmar Now, 7Day and Khit Thit Media were revoked by the regime on March 8 for their supposed anti-regime coverage. The Irrawaddy was sued by the junta for “disregarding” the armed forces in its reporting on the protests under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code.

On the ground, reporters have been vulnerable to teargas, rubber bullets or even live rounds and detentions while covering the protests. The Irrawaddy’s reporters have so far managed to avoid arrest. Many journalists across the country have been forced into hiding to avoid being detained.

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