Myanmar’s Ousted President Told Army Officers He Would Rather Die Than Resign on Day of Coup

By The Irrawaddy 12 October 2021

Myanmar’s ousted civilian President told army officers he would rather die than consent to their order that he resign from his post on the day of the military coup in February, a court heard Tuesday.

The circumstances of President U Win Myint’s detention on the morning of Feb. 1, when the military seized power from the country’s democratically elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government, were revealed for the first time by the former head of state himself during his testimony to a court in Naypyitaw.

The junta has filed several charges against U Win Myint, who has been under house arrest since the coup.

On the morning of the takeover, two very senior army officers entered his room at the Presidential Residence in Naypyitaw and attempted to persuade him to resign from his post on grounds of ill health, his lawyer quoted him as telling the court.

The President turned down their proposal, saying he was in good health.

“The officers warned him the denial would cause him much harm but the President told them he would rather die than consent,” said lawyer U Khin Maung Zaw.

Since the coup, a number of NLD government leaders including State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have been detained and charged by the junta. The ousted President is seen as an important ally of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and is the vice chairman of the NLD.

Among the cases filed against U Win Myint is a charge of sedition, based on the NLD’s post-coup statements urging the people of Myanmar to resist military rule, and an allegation that he breached COVID-19 restrictions during the campaign period ahead of last year’s general election.

Speaking in his own defense in the sedition trial on Tuesday, the former president—who is himself a lawyer—told the court that the accusations against him were groundless, as he had been held incommunicado. Therefore, he said, the statements allegedly released by the NLD were issued without his knowledge, even though his name appeared on them.

A loyal NLD member, longtime democracy activist dating back to 1988 and former political prisoner, U Win Myint served as Myanmar’s 10th President from 2018 until the coup. Prior to assuming the presidency, the 69-year-old served as Lower House Speaker when the NLD took office in 2016 after its landslide victory in the 2015 general election.

During his speakership, he earned the respect of many lawmakers for his strong leadership and impartiality, but was hated by military appointees in the Parliament. As President, U Win Myint was known for his strong political will and efforts to tackle corruption and reform the country’s weak judicial system.

Throughout his political career, he was elected four times, most recently in 2020.

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