A 50-year-old woman who was abducted by junta troops from her home more than 10 days ago is being held in an undisclosed location after the military was unable to locate and arrest her husband—the vice chair of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party—in Mandalay District.
Junta forces reportedly came looking for Ko Ko Lay at his house in Maharnwe ward in Maha Aungmyay Township on April 9. When they could not find him, they instead detained his wife, Soe Soe, according to a family friend.
“We are still asking around about her whereabouts. We can’t quite contact her family either since they’re on the run,” said the friend, who maintained that Soe Soe is “just a regular civilian.”
On Monday evening, the friend said that three more people from the couple’s neighbourhood were taken into junta custody, including a woman who works as a betel nut vendor and two other local men.
Their location also remains unknown.
Mandalay’s Obo Prison and the military’s interrogation centre located inside Mandalay Palace have become notorious for the brutal acts of torture alleged to have taken place there.
Several occasions have been documented where those arrested in Mandalay have died in junta custody and the families of the victims were not allowed to see their bodies.
The military has also sealed off houses belonging to those suspected of opposing the coup regime, and family members taken hostage and handed criminal charges in lieu of the individuals targeted for arrest.
Myanmar Now was unable to contact Soe Soe’s family regarding the incident or to obtain comment from the military council.
Junta statements rarely if ever include details concerning the arrests of family members of their opponents.
Kyaw Htwe, a member of the central executive committee of the NLD—whose elected administration was ousted in the February 2021 military coup—confirmed that more than 600 party members and leaders had been arrested and charged since that time.
At the time of reporting, it was not clear if the International Committee for the Red Cross, which has been known to facilitate communication between political prisoners and their families, has been approved to intervene in such procedures in Myanmar prisons in the post-coup period.
The organisation announced publicly that family members of the prisoners could report such arrests to them for documentation purposes.
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Six others were given five-year sentences with hard labour, and another 15 were banished from northern Shan State, the statement added.
Days after the incident, ethnic armed groups in northern Shan State invited the perpetrators to a meeting and detained them on November 31, according to Ko Doe.
The new group declined to disclose where the prisoners were being detained.
“There is a prison. I can’t say the location, but there is a private prison for them,” said Ko Doe, adding that the exiled members were also forbidden from taking part in the armed resistance movement against the Myanmar regime.
Although the severity of the crime would have justified the use of the death penalty, he said, the chief defendants were only given long prison sentences because of their previous involvement in the revolution.
Sadan, one of the survivors of the attack and now a member of the Muse Byu Har PDF, complained that the punishment was too lenient.
“I want them to get the death penalty, if possible,” he told Myanmar Now.
He added that the Muse Byu Har PDF was formed transparently and would continue to fight until the military junta is defeated.
The group will abide by the NUG’s military regulations and form alliances with other resistance forces in northern Shan State, according to Ko Doe. He also urged the public to continue its support.
“We have been involved in the revolution for two years, so even though we are newly reformed, we have the experience we need. I urge the people to keep trusting us,” he said.
The current strength of the group is unknown, but a video of a military refresher training course conducted by the PSDA in mid-2022 showed some 100 participants in military uniforms.
The PSDA was founded in April 2021 by Dawna Thanlwin, who was later killed in battle. Shweli Thanlwin took over as commander of the group after his death.
A number of members subsequently left the group amid concerns about Shweli Thanlwin’s leadership and his alleged misuse of funds.