Burma

Over 50 Top Officials From Myanmar’s Ousted NLD Govt Face Long Jail Terms

By The Irrawaddy 30 November 2021

More than 50 elected leaders and top officials who served under the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government face lengthy terms of imprisonment for an array of charges brought against them since the coup. The charges against the detained officials range from alleged violation of COVID-19 rules to corruption, inciting public unrest and electoral fraud.

On Tuesday, a court in Naypyitaw was set to deliver its first verdict in the many cases brought against deposed NLD government leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi since the coup. However, for reasons that are unclear the court postponed the hearing till Dec. 6, according to a source.

Nobel laurate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained along with President U Win Myint and other officials since the military ousted her government and seized power at dawn on Feb. 1.

The junta has prepared cases carrying more than a century of prison terms against the detained 76-year-old leader; the 11 charges against her include alleged illegal possession of imported walkie-talkies, sedition, alleged violation of COVID-19 restrictions, breaches of the colonial-era Official Secrets Act and four corruption cases, each carrying a maximum term of 15 years’ imprisonment.

The junta has accused her of accepting cash and gold from the chief minister of Yangon Region, as well as abusing her authority and funds donated to a charity foundation, and has also announced plans to bring fresh electoral fraud charges against her.

Testifying in one of the State Counselor’s corruption trials in October, detained Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein told the court that he paid Daw Aung San Suu Kyi more than 11 kg of gold and US$600,000 in exchange for business favors. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers said she has dismissed his claims as “all absurd”.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi visits Shwe Kyar Pin Ward in Naypyitaw’s Zabuthiri Township ahead of last year’s general election. / The Irrawaddy

Unlike other chief ministers, who are each facing several charges, U Phyo Min Thein, who is also a member of the NLD’s Central Executive Committee (CEC), has not been hit with any legal charges by the junta.

Of the 14 state and regional chief ministers appointed by the NLD government, 13 were detained on Feb. 1 and are still in military custody, prison or under house arrest. The Chin State chief minister was reported to have fled across the border to India.

According to data compiled by The Irrawaddy, 10 chief ministers—Mandalay Region’s Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, who is also the vice chairman of the NLD; Sagaing Region’s Dr. Myint Naing; Magwe Region’s Dr. Aung Moe Nyo; Tanintharyi Region’s U Myint Maung; Bago Region’s U Win Thein; Karen State’s Nan Khin Htwe Myint; Shan State’s Dr. Lin Htut; Mon State’s Dr. Aye Zan; Kachin State’s Dr. Khet Aung; and Rakhine State’s U Nyi Pu—have been charged by the regime with corruption despite most of them being known for their anti-graft stances. Many of them also face incitement charges under Article 505 (b) of the Penal Code.

10 chief ministers charged with corruption and other offenses: (Top row, left to right) Mandalay Region’s Dr. Zaw Myint Maung; Magwe Region’s Dr. Aung Moe Nyo; Sagaing Region’s Dr. Myint Naing; Rakhine State’s U Nyi Pu; and Karen State’s Nan Khin Htwe Myint. (Bottom row, left to right) Mon State’s Dr. Aye Zan; Bago Region’s U Win Thein; Tanintharyi Region’s U Myint Maung; Kachin State’s Dr. Khet Aung; and Shan State’s Dr. Lin Htut.

In recent weeks, the regime has also started wrapping up the trials of top NLD officials, frequently handing down the toughest possible sentences.

On Nov. 9, ousted 67-year-old Karen State chief minister Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint,  who is also an NLD CEC member, was sentenced to 75 years in prison on five corruption charges and to two years in a separate incitement case.

“We are really surprised by the charges and the verdicts,” said Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint’s younger brother Saw Than Htut, who won election to an Upper House constituency in the 2020 election.

“We, ourselves, loathe committing graft. She has never committed any corruption. The charges are a complete swindle,” he said.

Ousted Karen State Chief Minister Nan Khin Htwe Myint (center) is seen at the National League for Democracy’s second party congress at the Myanmar Convention Centre on June 23, 2018.

Detained Tanintharyi Region Chief Minister U Myint Maung was sentenced on Nov. 11 to 11 years in prison on charges of corruption, incitement and violating COVID-19 rules.

The detained Magwe Region chief minister, Dr. Aung Moe Nyo, who is also the NLD party secretary, was sentenced in June to two years for incitement. The junta recently slapped him with four more corruption charges in addition to the two he already faces. The 64-year-old now faces a combined prison sentence of up to 90 years on corruption charges.

The regime has also hit at least 34 ministers from formerly NLD-controlled state and regional governments with a series of charges, most commonly incitement and corruption.

Among them are Naypyitaw Mayor Dr. Myo Aung; the city’s deputy mayor U Ye Min Oo— who at the same time served as Yangon Region’s planning and finance minister—Naypyitaw Development Committee member U Min Thu; and Mandalay Mayor Dr. Ye Lwin.

State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and Naypyitaw Council Chairman Dr. Myo Aung appear in court in Naypyitaw on May 24. / Commander in Chief of Defense Services Myanmar.

Yangon Region Transport Minister Daw Nilar Kyaw; Yangon Social Affairs Minister U Naing Ngan Lin; Yangon Immigration Minister Daw Moe Moe Suu Kyi; Kachin State Natural Resources Minister Dar Shi La Sai; and Shan State Planning and Finance Minister U Soe Nyunt Lwin are also among the regional and state ministers who have been charged with corruption, incitement or both.

The regime has also filed corruption charges against three Union ministers: Minister for Religion and Culture U Aung Ko, Minister for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations U Thaung Tun and Minister for Social Welfare and Relief U Win Myat Aye.

U Aung Ko and U Thaung Tun have been detained, while U Win Myat Aye has been made minister of humanitarian affairs and disaster management in the parallel National Unity Government (NUG), which was formed after the coup. For his role in the NUG, the regime has issued a warrant for U Win Myat Aye accusing him of high treason, which carries a term of life imprisonment.

Detained Union Minister of Planning and Finance U Soe Win; his deputy U Set Aung; a former Union minister of planning and finance, U Kyaw Win; and Sean Turnell, an Australian professor and economic adviser to detained State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, have also been charged—like Daw Aung San Suu Kyi herself—with violating the Official Secrets Act.

Detained former investment minister U Thaung Tun; U Win Myat Aye, the NUG’s humanitarian affairs minister; and detained Union Minister for Religion and Culture U Aung Ko.

According to a report from rights group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), Union Minister of Transport and Communications U Thant Sin Maung; Union Minister of Education U Myo Thein Gyi; Union Minister of Information U Pe Myint; Union Minister of Commerce Dr. Than Myint; Union Minister of the State Counselor’s Office U Kyaw Tint Swe; Union Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Dr. Aung Thu; Minister of the Union Government Office U Min Thu; and Deputy Minister of Planning, Finance and Industry Dr. Min Ye Paing Hein were also put under house arrest with no charge by the regime following the coup. The Irrawaddy has not been able to independently verify the reports of their detentions.

 

Meanwhile, in stark contrast to the above detained civilian leaders and ministers, there are also some high-ranking government officials from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted government who are now working for the murderous regime.

Among them is U Aung Naing Oo, who was widely praised for implementing economic reforms under the deposed civilian government. He was promoted to minister of investment by the regime following the coup. The ex-military officer served as the Investment and Foreign Economic Relations Ministry’s permanent secretary under U Thaung Tun, who is currently detained.

From left to right: Detained ministers of planning and finance U Soe Win and U Kyaw Win, and Deputy Planning and Finance Minister U Set Aung.

One of the most recognizable faces of Myanmar’s effort to combat COVID-19, Dr. Myint Htwe, has been replaced as minister of health and sports by his former subordinate Dr. Thet Kaing Win, who was previously permanent secretary. Dr. Myint Htwe resigned from his post after the coup.

The military staged the coup claiming the NLD government had engineered its landslide victory in the November 2020 general election through “voter fraud,” despite the fact that the poll was widely recognized as free and fair by both local and international election observers.

Following the coup, hundreds of thousands of Myanmar people from all walks of life peacefully took to the streets across the country to show their opposition to the takeover. They questioned the military’s claims by shouting slogans like “Respect Our Votes,” while others called for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint.

Ignoring the people’s voice as it always has, the military cracked down on protesters with deadly force and abolished the results of the election, pushing Myanmar to the verge of being a politically, economically and socially failed state. International sanctions were imposed and investors took the last train out of town while civilian armed resistance against the regime flared up across the country; it is still going strong 10 months after the coup.

According to the AAPP, the regime’s forces have killed at least 1,297 people including protesters, students, bystanders and politicians, and arrested more than 10,000 others as of Nov. 29.


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