It was December 2022 when junta troops under the leadership of Major Aye Chan Aung raided the homes of deposed National League for Democracy lawmaker Hla Hla Win and her son, making off with valuables and the deed to her son’s property.
Four months later, she told RFA Burmese, she learned that her son’s home in Bago region’s Shwe Kyin township had been sold, leaving the family with little recourse to recover it.
“The junta forces raided my house and took away furniture, including my wardrobe,” she said. “Since my important documents were in that wardrobe, they took [the deed to] my son’s house and pawned it and then, when they could not afford to get it back, they sold it for 12 million kyats (US$ 5,700).”
Hla Hla Win said that following the April 3 sale, she contacted the seller over the phone, but received no response.
The seizure is just one of nearly 1,000 carried out by the junta on homes and private buildings in the slightly more than two years since the Feb. 1, 2021 coup, the NLD said Tuesday, in what observers call a coordinated attack on the party.
Based on the NLD’s findings, the junta has confiscated at least 971 buildings belonging to 849 party members, including NLD representatives and democracy activists, since the takeover. Most have been accused of “spreading fake news” and “incitement against a junta employee” under Article 505 (a) and (b), as well as violating anti-terrorism laws.
The buildings include places of business, restaurants, religious buildings, hospitals and clinics, schools, guesthouses and hotels, the NLD said.
The party said its list was compiled based on interviews with victims of the seizures, as well as area residents and civil society organizations, and suggested that the actual number of confiscated properties may be much higher.
Nay Zin Latt, a lawmaker for Sagaing region’s Kanbalu township under the democratically elected NLD government who is wanted by the junta for alleged acts of terrorism and violating Article 505 (a) and (b), told RFA that the junta seized the homes of both his parents and in-laws in late 2021.
“The junta sealed off my parents house and compound in Kanbalu’s Htan Kone village,” he said, speaking from an undisclosed location to avoid arrest. “But since they are such brutes who commit the most inhumane crimes against the people, the act of confiscating civilian properties is nothing to them.”
Targeting the party-affiliated
While more than half of the properties seized are owned by NLD lawmakers and supporters, the rest belong to people who are affiliated with the party but are not politically active, said an official with Thailand’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) who declined to be named, citing security concerns.
“When the junta can’t arrest someone, it seizes the properties of his or her family members,” said the official. “That’s how the junta tries to punish not only anti-junta activists, but his or her relatives, too.”
Such seizures are unlawful, a lawyer who spoke on condition of anonymity told RFA.
“The military seals off people’s properties whenever it wants … [but] there are limitations that law enforcement must follow in taking such actions,” the lawyer said. “The court has to issue warrants to seal off private properties under certain laws.”
Properties sealed by court order may not be used by other citizens or foreign nationals for their personal interests, he said.
“Such properties must be kept under the custody of the court as evidence in the case against the owner” and can neither be repurposed or sold, the lawyer noted.
Confiscated properties can only be transferred to state ownership once a defendant receives a final court order, he said, at which point they may be sold through the country’s Investment Commission.
Bid to dissolve NLD
Kyaw Htwe, a member of the NLD’s central working committee, said the seizures are part of a bid by the junta to dissolve the NLD and harass its members.
“Although the junta seized power on the pretext of voter fraud, it aims to dissolve the party chosen by the people to lead the country – in effect, ignoring the will of the people,” he said. “There are many people who have lost their houses and properties, just as NLD party members have ... We are working to secure a victory so that we can make the best of their sacrifices.”
According to Kyaw Htwe, the junta has sealed off at least 115 NLD party offices across the country since the coup.
Junta security forces have arrested hundreds of NLD members over the same period, including leader Aung San Suu Kyi and former President Win Myint.
Translated by Myo Min Aung. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Matt Reed.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by By RFA Burmese.