Sixteen NLD lawmakers have died in junta custody or evading arrest since Myanmar coup

Last June, junta security personnel arrested a Kyaw Mo Myin, a lawmaker for the deposed National League for Democracy in central Myanmar’s Mon state, along with two other party members and a fourth individual.

More than a week later, his body was found 90 kilometers (55 miles) to the southeast, in Bilin township’s Paw Khi village, near Hpa-An, according to a person close to his family.

He is one of 16 NLD lawmakers to die in junta custody or while evading arrest since the 2021 coup, according to a statement released this week by the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw – a shadow parliament made up of lawmakers ousted in the takeover.

“The people who were arrested together with him were murdered first and then they killed him,” said the acquaintance, who spoke to RFA Burmese on condition of anonymity, citing security concerns. “They tied his hands together behind his back and tied a rope around his neck. He was killed with his hands bound.”

CRPH Secretary Tun Myint called Kyaw Myo Min’s death “the worst” among NLD parliamentarians in junta detention, but said all were unjust.

“These MPs were arrested and tortured by the junta,” he said. “Others died because they were denied access to medical treatment.”

According to the CRPH, at least 14 of the MPs – five from the national Union Parliament and nine state and regional lawmakers – died in hiding while being sought by the junta for arrest.

One other – Nyunt Shwe, a lawmaker from the seat of Bago region – died in prison after being refused treatment for an illness, the group said.

No access to treatment

Myint San, the NLD’s Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, was diagnosed with cancer while living in a remote location in rural Tanintharyi region’s Dawei township to avoid detention, his colleague, Kyaw Htway, told RFA.

“When the symptoms started showing severely, there were no doctors or medical professionals for him to seek medical treatment from,” Kyaw Htway said. “He was finally forced to travel to Thailand to seek medication, as he was seriously sick.”

Myint San, NLD party’s Tanintharyi regional government minister, Credit: U Myint San/Facebook

The 66-year-old, who was elected as state representative of Tanintharyi and won a seat representing the region’s Launglon township in Myanmar’s 2020 election, died in Phuket, Thailand, last week of complications from his disease.

Since the coup, the junta has arrested or imprisoned nearly 130 NLD lawmakers – including former State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint – as well as 29 CRPH parliamentarians and 59 state or regional MPs, according to the CRPH’s count.

The shadow parliament said that the junta typically charges lawmakers with crimes including high treason, sedition, inciting national unrest and terrorism, and sentences them to lengthy jail terms.

Calls to junta Deputy Minister of Information Major Gen. Zaw Min Tun for comment on the deaths of NLD lawmakers rang unanswered Thursday.

Impact on party and society

Political analyst Sai Kyi Zin Soe told RFA that the deaths of key politicians could severely impact the NLD’s standing in Myanmar, particularly after the junta dissolved the party in late March when its leadership chose not to re-register with the country’s Election Commission.

“It will be difficult for them to re-establish the party without highly experienced politicians,” he said, comparing such efforts to “starting from scratch again.”

“Without these experienced politicians to hand down what they have learned to the younger generations, the party’s standing will be affected,” he added.

A human rights activist in Yangon, who also declined to be named for fear of reprisal, went further, saying the deaths will negatively impact wider society.

“It is a very serious blow to all of Myanmar that the human rights of the MPs who lead the country by writing legislation and upholding the rule of law have been violated as they were arrested, tortured and killed in prisons by the junta,” he said.

In addition to arresting and causing the deaths of NLD lawmakers, the junta has also targeted members of the party by confiscating their properties.

Earlier this week, the NLD revealed that the junta had seized nearly 1,000 homes and private buildings belonging to party members and their supporters since the coup.

Speaking to RFA on Thursday, CRPH Secretary Tun Myint vowed to bring those responsible for the deaths to justice when a civilian government is restored to Myanmar.

“The inhumane brutality of the military junta has been documented and will be reported to the United Nations Human Rights Council,” he said.

Translated by Myo Min Aung. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.