Burma

NLD Patron U Win Htein Arrested for Sedition After Condemning Coup

By Nyein Nyein 5 February 2021

Police detained National League for Democracy (NLD) patron U Win Htein on Thursday night on a sedition charge, following the military takeover on Monday.

The 80-year-old, who is not in good health, returned from Naypyitaw to his home in Yangon on Thursday afternoon, but was arrested at midnight, according to his family and the party.

He was brought back to Naypyitaw and was being held at Oattara Thiri Police Station on Friday morning.

Ma Chit Su Win Htein said, “They said he is charged under Article 124(a)” of the penal code. Article 124(a) criminalizes sedition, defined as attempting to excite disaffection against the government. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Shortly after the military seized power on Monday, U Win Htein, a former military captain-turned-politician, condemned the coup as the result of military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s personal ambition for power.

During the pre-dawn coup, the military detained 133 people including government ministers, senior NLD leaders, and a number of lawmakers and political activists, according to a list compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Only 11 were released the next day.

State Counselor and NLD chairperson Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, union ministers, and state/regional chief ministers and ministers were placed under house arrest.

U Win Htein, who spent years in prison after joining the NLD in 1988, and was also a Lower House lawmaker, has long been loyal to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and a key party member. After the 1988 pro-democracy demonstrations, U Win Htein was held in Yangon’s Insein Prison from 1989 until 1995. In 1996 he was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment on charges of providing misinformation to foreign journalists, eventually being released from prison in 2010. He won a Lower House seat in the 2012 by-election and represented Mandalay Region’s Meiktila from 2012 to January 2016.

U Win Htein on Monday urged the public to “Oppose it [the coup] as much as you can in a nonviolent way, as called for by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Object through civil disobedience, speak up against their action and do not collaborate with their program.”

His video message reflected comments made by State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in a message to the public that was prepared before the coup and released after her detention.

Saying that previous military takeovers had impoverished the country, U Win Htein said the coup would take the country “back to zero”.

Since the coup, the Myanmar public has shown its disapproval of the military regime and denounced the coup through social media campaigns and acts of civil disobedience, including banging on pots and pans at 8 p.m.

On Thursday, three university students from Mandalay were arrested for protesting against the military coup.

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