Burma

Myanmar Regime Files High Treason, Other Charges Against Detained Protest Leader

By The Irrawaddy 29 April 2021

The Myanmar junta has brought more charges including high treason and unlawful association against Ko Wai Moe Naing, a detained anti-regime figure who led protests in Sagaing Region’s Monywa town, bringing to 10 the number of cases filed against the 26-year-old Muslim pro-democracy activist.

Ko Wai Moe Naing, one of the most prominent faces of Myanmar’s protest movement against the junta, was violently abducted on April 15 as he was leading a motorbike rally.

After having his motorbike rammed, he was beaten and dragged away by a group of armed thugs clad in black T-shirts with military trousers and boots. The injured protest leader was taken into custody at the Myanmar military’s Northwestern Command. A picture of him showing signs of severe torture went viral online one day after he was moved to a military base in the town.

According to his mother, no one including his lawyers have been allowed to see him since his arrest.

On Wednesday night, two weeks after his arrest, the junta made its first announcement about his arrest and the legal proceedings against him. Earlier information had been released by police at the time of his first court hearing.

The junta said cases have been filed against the “riot” leader under Section 25 of the Natural Disaster Management Law, and also sections 114, 302, 325, 342, 395 and 505(a) of the Penal Code over his involvement in the protest movement in February and March.

The charges include the alleged murder of two police officers in Monywa in late March, abduction with intent to murder, wrongful confinement, unlawful assembly and incitement.

State TV announced that based on his confessions under interrogation, new cases were filed against him under Section 17(a) of the Unlawful Association Act and sections 124 and 511 of the Penal Code, for allegedly affiliating with the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), which the junta has declared an unlawful association.

A screengrab from a Myawaddy TV news report on Ko Wai Moe Naing.

The CRPH was formed after the coup by a group of lawmakers elected in the  2020 general election. It set up the civilian National Unity Government on April 16 in attempt to defy and discredit the military regime, restore civilian rule and establish a federal union.

The junta said in the announcement that it is also looking for 23 suspects it said were also involved in “riots” with the detained protest leader.

“I have worried about his condition in military custody daily,” Ko Wai Moe Naing’s mother Daw Moe Sandar Kyu told The Irrawaddy.

“We don’t know how long they will take to interrogate him as they are adding more and more accusations,” she added, while calling for an open and transparent court process and for his right to legal counsel to be upheld, as lawyers for her son haven’t been able to meet with him to obtain power of attorney.

The home-grown pro-democracy activist, who is a former president of the Monywa University Student Union and a member of Sagaing Regional Youth Committee, was affectionately known as the “Panda of Monywa” for his chubby physique.

He led daily protests in various forms for 68 days till the day of his arrest, and also led the formation of the 13-member Monywa General Strike Committee, the nine-member Monywa People’s Administration body, and a 150-member town defense team to counter the regime’s forces and send groups of youths to areas controlled by ethnic armed groups to attend basic military training, the junta stated in its announcement.

 

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