Myanmar’s junta is targeting members of the deposed National League for Democracy (NLD), including its leader Aung San Suu Kyi and dozens of lawmakers, in a bid to disband the party and secure its tenuous hold on power six months after overthrowing the government, ousted lawmakers and analysts said Monday.
A member of the NLD’s Central Committee told RFA’s Myanmar Service that the military regime has arrested a total of 324 NLD members—98 of whom are members of parliament (MPs)—since its Feb. 1 coup d’état. Among the detained are 15 members of the NLD’s Central Committee, as well as five regional and state chief ministers, the committee member said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.
Other senior NLD members have died in detention since the coup, including Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal attorney Nyan Win on July 20 and Bago region MP Nyunt Shwe, who died of COVID-19 in prison on Monday. Three party members—Khin Maung Latt and Zaw Myat Lin of Myanmar’s largest city Yangon and Kyaw Kyaw from the capital Naypyidaw—were allegedly tortured to death at interrogation centers, according to the committee member.
Meanwhile, 10 people, including Magway Region Chief Minister Dr. Aung Moe Nyo, have been sentenced by the military to between two and three years in prison and face additional charges. NLD chairwoman Aung San Suu Kyi, former president Win Myint, and several other party leaders remain in detention on a variety of anti-state charges after being rounded up in the aftermath of the coup.
The Central Committee member told RFA that the junta is targeting the NLD with the goal of removing the party from politics altogether.
“The junta is afraid of losing the state authority it unlawfully seized,” they said.
The committee member said they believe the military’s leadership was unhappy with the socio-economic development, transparency, and other reforms that the NLD delivered after winning the country’s 2015 elections, and afraid of being held to account for the corruption and other crimes it had committed during its 1962-2011 rule.
“That must be why they are trying to completely remove the NLD from Myanmar politics, hoping that afterwards they’d be free to do what they want,” the committee member said.
“[NLD] party leaders and party members are being unlawfully persecuted, and people are being brutally suppressed so that they cannot interact with the party.”
Holding on to power
The junta says a landslide victory by the NLD in the country’s November 2020 general election was the result of voter fraud, but has yet to provide evidence of its claims and has violently repressed widespread prot4ests, killing 998 people and arresting 5,711 since the coup, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
The regime’s Union Election Commission (UEC) announced on July 26 that the 2020 election results had been officially annulled, although the NLD has dismissed the decision as illegal, saying it invalidates the will of the people. The military has called for a change in the format of the election to include proportional representation ahead of a new ballot.
Political analyst Than Soe Naing told RFA that the military’s actions are aimed at holding on to power.
“It doesn’t matter when elections are held—as long as the people wholeheartedly support the NLD, it will be difficult for the military to maintain power,” he said.
“This is why the junta is working towards the abolition of the NLD and the long-term imprisonment of its leaders.”
In the aftermath of the coup, the military raided NLD offices across the country, confiscating documents and office equipment and destroying party signboards. Party officials say grassroot-level NLD offices have since removed all signs, citing security concerns.
Aung Kyi Nyunt, a member of the NLD Central Committee, said that despite the military’s efforts, the party will endure because it continues to represent the will of the people.
“I don’t believe that the people will accept the annulment of the election results or participate in new elections, as they already made their decision,” he said.
“As long as the people are there, the party will be there.”
Little hope for justice
Meanwhile, family members of imprisoned NLD lawmakers told RFA on Monday that they have little hope for justice while the junta remains in charge of the country.
Lin Naing, the husband of jailed Taungup township MP Ni Ni May Myint, said that the military had arrested his wife and many other NLD members with complete impunity.
“We didn’t know where people were interrogated after being taken away—most were taken to court from interrogation centers and imprisoned straight away,” he said.
“There is no transparency. Those arrested were not allowed to speak with their lawyers and were jailed on random charges. Almost all the cases are like that. Anyone who is charged under Section 505 (a) of the Penal Code [for ‘defamation of the military’] has no legal protection.”
Ni Ni May Myint was arrested in Yangon on May 12 along with NLD youth leader Chit Chit Chaw and sentenced to three years in prison for defaming the military. The pair have been denied visits with family members, Lin Naing said.
Thant Zin Tun, a Pyithu Hluttaw member from Dekkhina Thiri township, has been in detention in Naypyidaw Prison since March 2, when he was arrested in the capital along with Naypyidaw Council Development Committee member Min Thu, NLD MP Kyaw Min Hlaing, and Amyotha Hluttaw member Maung Maung Swe.
A member of Thant Zin Tun’s family, who declined to be named, said the junta has been devoting a significant amount of effort to building a case against the MP.
“We were allowed to see him 12 days after his arrest, but we haven’t seen him since,” the relative said.
“They are meticulously constructing a case so that they can sentence him to prison. They have called in ‘witnesses’ that they want to testify in the case. There is nothing we can do for him.”
Attempts by RFA to reach junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for comment went unanswered Monday.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.