Prominent Anti-Regime Protest Leader Run Over, Dragged Away by Myanmar Junta Forces

By The Irrawaddy 15 April 2021

A prominent anti-regime protest leader in Monywa, Sagaing Region was beaten and dragged away by junta forces after having his motor scooter rammed on Thursday afternoon.

Ko Wai Moe Naing was detained after regime forces drove a large vehicle head-on into a group of motor scooters carrying him and other anti-regime protesters. After being violently knocked to the ground, witnesses said the 26-year-old was beaten and dragged away.

Since anti-regime protests broke out in early February in Monywa, a business hub on the eastern bank of the Chindwin River and the largest city in Sagaing Region, the Muslim man had been at the forefront of the rallies.

When he wasn’t shouting anti-regime slogans via a megaphone, the Sagaing Regional Youth Committee leader could be seen on stage, reasonably explaining to crowds why the anti-regime movement was important.

Prior to his anti-regime activism on the streets, Ko Wai Moe Naing was among those who came up with the idea of banging pots and pans as a sign of opposition to the regime. It has since become a nightly ritual across the country, with people beating their cooking utensils and vessels for 15 minutes in the evening before shouting anti-regime slogans.

His prominence quickly made him a target of the regime, and he was charged with incitement in March.

Like other cities and towns across the country, Monywa has been actively defying military rule, and has suffered deadly crackdowns and arrests.

Ko Wai Moe Naing said recently that the reason he defied the regime was simple; because he utterly rejected it.

He said that under the democratic government of 2016-20, people were treated with human dignity and experienced greater political freedom and an abundance of academic and professional opportunities.

“We simply don’t want to go back to the dark age [under the regime]. What haunts me most is how I would survive under their rule,” he said.

“So, when it comes to arrest or death, neither of them matter to me,” he added.

Upon learning of Ko Wai Moe Naing’s arrest on Thursday, Ko Tayzar San, a prominent anti-regime leader in Mandalay, called on people to accelerate the anti-regime protest.

“I also warn the military council [junta] that there are many more Wai Moe Naings among the people. If you arrest one, another will take the front line,” he said.

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