Beyond the Headlines: Myanmar’s detained President moved to prison, whereabouts of family unknown
Myanmar Now provides an overview of underreported developments in the country over the past week, January 16-23
The junta authorities moved the detained civilian President Win Myint to a prison in Taungoo, Bago Region, more than one week ago, Myanmar Now recently learned. The town is located around 60 miles south of Naypyitaw, the country’s administrative capital, where he was believed to have been kept under house arrest since the coup that deposed his elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government nearly two years ago.
On January 23, Myanmar Now confirmed with two sources familiar with the detained President’s situation that he had been sent to the prison on January 14. The regime authorities have yet to officially acknowledge the transfer, and staff at a police station in Naypyitaw accepted parcels for Win Myint on January 23 as usual, the first source said. A second source added that there is no information available on the President’s wife Cho Cho, elder sister Ma Ma Lay, daughter Phyu Phyu Thin, or a female caretaker and her mother, all of whom were kept under house arrest with Win Myint, despite having no criminal charges filed against them.
The family members have not returned to Win Myint’s native Pathein Township in Ayeyarwady Region, where he had maintained a residence, according to a Pathein local who is close to his family.
President Win Myint (President’s Office)
The 71-year-old ousted President was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being convicted in a junta-controlled court of eight charges—five of which were related to alleged corruption—and finalised in late December.
Observers have dismissed the cases as fabricated accusations filed against civilian leaders by the military in the wake of the February 1, 2021 coup. Ousted NLD State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi was likewise sentenced to 33 years in prison after being handed 19 convictions.
With their trials completed, there had been speculation that the pair would be transferred to prison, but at the time of reporting, Suu Kyi continued to be held in separate quarters in the Naypyitaw Detention Centre.
Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing met with Chalermphon Srisawasdi, chief of defence forces of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, in Thandwe, Rakhine State, on January 20 as Myanmar hosted the eighth ever high-level meeting between the two countries’ militaries. Regime mouthpieces did not disclose details regarding the private meeting between Min Aung Hlaing and Srisawasdi on that day but during the addresses delivered by the men as part of the three-day meeting, both expressed a desire to improve existing military relations and to take further steps to increase border security. Srisawasdi said he would “strive to maintain Myanmar and Thai militaries as perpetual good friends.”
Among the Myanmar military’s delegation were chief of general staff Gen Maung Maung Aye, navy commander Adm Moe Aung, air force commander Gen Tun Aung, and other officers such as chief of military security affairs Lt-Gen Ye Win Oo. The meeting was the first between the two military chiefs since Myanmar’s coup nearly two years ago.
Chalermphon Srisawasdi, chief of defence forces of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, (left) and Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing (right) (Cincds)
Min Aung Hlaing and his wife Kyu Kyu Hla attended the Lunar New Year celebrations and the closing ceremony of a commemorative friendship basketball tournament organised by the Chinese embassy and the Myanmar Chinese Chamber of Commerce at Thuwunna National Indoor Stadium-1 in Yangon on January 21. Also present at the occasion was Chinese ambassador to Myanmar Chen Hai, President of the Myanmar Chinese Chamber of Commerce Aik Tun, members of the military council, the regime’s Yangon Region chief minister, and other army officials. Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing again expressed his support for the “One China Policy” in a speech at the event, declaring that “one must stay true to one’s own convictions, regardless of who is breaching theirs,” quoting a Burmese proverb.
Min Aung Hlaing (left) and Chen Hai, Chinese ambassador to Myanmar (right), are seen at the Lunar New year Celebration at the Thuwunna Indoor Stadium-1 on January 21 (Cincds)
Meanwhile, the Myanmar-born Chinese community in Yangon celebrated the Lunar New Year quietly and largely in their own homes over the weekend. It stood in sharp contrast to the once festive and government-sponsored displays shared prior to the military coup in Lanmadaw Township, known as the commercial hub’s Chinatown.
Traditional red decorations, but no large crowds, were seen at Chinese temples in the area. Chinese traditional dragon dance competitions and firecrackers have become increasingly rare as the community resists a return to a “new normal” under the military rule in solidarity with the majority of Myanmar’s diverse population.
A Chinese temple in Yangon’s Chinatown in which there was no typical crowd of visitors on January 22, the Lunar New Year (Myanmar Now)
The Myanmar coup regime accused the anti-junta People’s Defence Force (PDF) of attacking 13 election commission offices in six states and regions over the past year, in an announcement that appeared in military-run newspapers on January 23. The assaults caused more than 367.5m kyat (US$175,000) in damage, it said.
Six of the strikes were reportedly perpetrated in Chin State and Sagaing Region, both known resistance strongholds. Others were said to have occurred in Karen and Karenni states, as well as Magway and Tanintharyi regions, where the junta has also been facing significant challenges in fighting guerrilla forces and ethnic armed organisations opposed to military rule.
Junta immigration minister Myint Kyaing and staff are seen checking on the data collection process in Thingangyun Township, Yangon, on January 14 (Military council’s information ministry)
As a pretext for the February 2021 coup, the military rejected the results of Myanmar’s 2020 election—in which the governing NLD won a majority—pointing to widely unsubstantiated claims of fraud as justification for the takeover. Since then, the junta has planned to hold new elections under its own authority.
In recent weeks, resistance forces across the country also launched multiple attacks on junta personnel collecting data from residents in preparation for the military-controlled vote scheduled for later this year. Various ethnic armed organisations, the publicly mandated National Unity Government and its affiliated PDF are among those who have declared that they will not recognise the legitimacy of a military election.