Myanmar Regime Police Chief’s Democracy Activist Brother Dies in Custody

By The Irrawaddy 25 May 2021

A veteran pro-democracy activist, who is a younger brother of the Myanmar regime’s Home Affairs Ministry deputy minister and chief of police, died while in military custody in Bago Region.

The 53-year-old Ko Soe Moe Hlaing, also known as Ko Mae Gyi, was arrested Saturday in Zaung Tu village in Bago Region along with a few other villagers after a regime informant told troops about their whereabouts.

A friend said they were told by witnesses that Ko Mae Gyi was violently beaten over the head with rifle butts at the time of his arrest. On Monday night, his wife was informed by telephone that he was dead. The status of the other detained villagers is still unknown.

His friends believed that the activist was tortured to death for his strong political beliefs against the military regime.

Unlike with his notorious brother Lt-Gen Than Hlaing, who was promoted to deputy minister and chief of police following the coup and is one of the key people responsible for the brutal crackdowns on civilians, Ko Soe Moe Hlaing, a.k.a Ko Mae Gyi, had devoted his life to the country’s struggle for democracy since 1988.

He was also involved in All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) which was the first students’ army formed to oppose the then-regime in 1988.

Due to his political activism during and after 1988, he was jailed for 13 years after being arrested for taking part in a student movement demanding the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi under the previous military regime.

After his release, Ko Mae Gyi actively worked on philanthropic projects and regional development in Bago. He also established a network in the region to offer free education to children.

The family was only allowed to see Ko Mae Gyi’s face after his body was placed inside a coffin at Mingaladon military hospital in Yangon, before a funeral on Tuesday evening.

“Despite coming from a family with military background, he did everything he could throughout his life for the country’s democracy, from taking part in protest movements to joining the student army. He was a good leader, much experienced in political activism. I am so grieved to lose our good comrade,” said a former political prisoner who was also one of his inmates in prison.

Ko Mae Gyi was married with five children.

In Sagaing Region’s Kale Township, a detainee was also killed under detention. Ko Min Min, the father of two, died hours after being detained by junta forces on Monday afternoon. He was taken from his motorcycle workshop for questioning. On Tuesday, his body was returned to his family from a military hospital with knife wounds on his arms and bruises on his back and leg.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) which tracks killings and detentions, at least 20 civilians have been tortured to death in military custody since the coup.

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