Myanmar party official dies in custody amid torture allegations


An official from deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) died in custody after he was arrested on Tuesday, a former parliamentarian said, the second party figure to die in detention in almost as many days.

The NLD’s Zaw Myat Linn died in custody after he was detained in Yangon at about 1:30am (19:00 GMT on Monday), said Ba Myo Thein, a member of the dissolved upper house of parliament.

“He’s been participating continuously in the protests,” Ba Myo Thein said. “Now the relatives are trying to retrieve the body at the Military Hospital.”

Neither the military nor the police responded to calls for comment.

Zaw Myat Linn, who ran a vocational institute in Myanmar’s biggest city, is the second NLD official to have died in custody in recent days. Khin Maung Latt, who worked as a campaign manager for an NLD MP elected in 2020, died after he was arrested on Saturday.

Myanmar was plunged into crisis on February 1 when the army detained the government of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and seized power in a coup. Protests have taken place on an almost daily basis since and many civil servants and private sector workers have walked off the job as part of a mass civil disobedience movement.

The resistance to military rule has prompted an increasingly harsh crackdown from the security forces, and people have also been arrested during a nightly curfew and internet blackout that has now been enforced for 24 nights.

More than 60 protesters have been killed in the crackdown and nearly 2,000 detained, said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which has been tracking arrests since the coup.

Maung Saungkha, an activist and Zaw Myat Linn’s friend, said his family was summoned to retrieve his body and was not told how he died. His wife said Zaw Myat Linn had a large wound to his abdomen, and the military had said he hurt himself climbing over a fence while trying to escape, The Irrawaddy newspaper said

Their deaths have raised questions about whether the military is torturing and killing detainees.

‘Transfer him back’

Meanwhile, Myanmar recalled its British ambassador on Tuesday, a day after he urged the military to release Aung San Suu Kyi, state media reported.

The MRTV news channel said Kyaw Swar Min released the statement without following orders.

“Since he did not conduct himself in accordance with given responsibilities, an order [was issued] to summon and transfer him back to the ministry of foreign affairs,” it said.

The army has justified the coup by saying the November election, which the NLD won in a landslide, was marred by fraud – a claim rejected by the electoral commission. It has promised a new vote but has not said when that might be held.

International powers have condemned the takeover, which derailed a slow transition to democracy in a country that has been mostly under military rule since independence from Britain in 1947.

Widespread protests

Protest marches continued in cities and towns across the country on Tuesday, according to local news reports and social media, but were quickly broken up by security forces firing tear gas and stun grenades.

About 1,000 demonstrators emerged cautiously onto the streets of the country’s second-biggest city, Mandalay.

Those who marched gathered for just a few minutes before dispersing to avoid a possible confrontation with riot police. Another group made a mobile protest, driving through the streets on motorcycles.

At least two people were wounded, one by a gunshot, in the town of Mohnyin in the north, local media said.

The protesters have adapted their tactics in response to escalating violence from security forces, including the firing of live ammunition at crowds.

Overnight, police arrested about 50 people who had been cornered by security forces in a district of Yangon, a rights group said.

But hundreds managed to escape the cordon after crowds of demonstrators rallied in their support in defiance of the night-time curfew.

The United Kingdom, the United States, and some other Western countries have imposed limited sanctions on the generals.

The European Union is preparing to widen its sanctions to target army-run businesses including its two ginat conglomerates MEHL and MEC, according to diplomats and two internal documents seen by Reuters news agency.

“We have very strongly condemned the junta for the … violent crackdowns on those peacefully taking to the streets and on those who are just doing their jobs, including independent journalists who have been swept up,” the US State Department said.

The military has brushed off condemnation of its actions – as it did in 2017 following the brutal crackdown on the Rohingya which prompted hundreds and thousands to flee to Bangladesh and during previous uprisings against military rule.