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Second Official with Party of Ousted Myanmar De-Facto Leader Dies in Custody


Anti-coup protesters stand behind a line of makeshift shields marked with the three-fingered salute and the defaced image of Commander in chief, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, as they gather to protest in Yangon, Myanmar, March 9, 2021.

A second official from ousted Myanmar de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy has died in custody as protests in defiance of the country’s new military government continue.

Zaw Myat Lin died Tuesday after being arrested when trying to escape from a police raid in Yangon, according to reports from the Voice of Myanmar and other news outlets.

A member of the upper house of parliament, which has been dissolved by the junta, Ba Myo Thein, said Zaw Myat Lin had been “participating continuously in the protests.”

Zaw Myat Lin’s family was told to recover his body Tuesday but was not informed how he died, according to his friend and fellow activist Maung Saungkha.

The first NLD official to die in custody was Khin Maung Latt, who had worked as a campaign manager for an NLD lawmaker, party lawmaker Sithu Maung confirmed to VOA’s Burmese service. He died after his arrest on Saturday night.

Anti-coup protesters with makeshift shields walk to take positions in Mandalay, Myanmar, March 9, 2021.
Anti-coup protesters with makeshift shields walk to take positions in Mandalay, Myanmar, March 9, 2021.

Tun Kyi, spokesperson of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), told VOA Burmese that he accompanied the bereaved family to claim Khin Maung Latt’s body on Sunday and witnessed blood on his head, his fingers blackened and wounds on his back.

Human Rights Watch said Khin Maung Latt’s injuries were consistent with torture. The deaths of the two NLD officials while in custody raises questions about whether the government is torturing and murdering detained protesters.

The police and military have not responded to media requests for comment on the deaths.

During the protests in Yangon, a standoff between coup protesters and security forces in Myanmar’s largest city ended without further bloodshed.

Witnesses in Yangon said as many as 200 young people were cornered in the Sanchaung neighborhood Monday night as they escaped the clutches of security forces that have carried out an increasingly bloody crackdown against the demonstrations.

The army fired guns and stun grenades as the students fled into buildings and homes in the district and threatened to launch a door-to-door search for the youths.

News of the youths spread quickly on social media, prompting thousands of people to fill the streets of Yangon in defiance of a nighttime curfew to demand that security forces end the siege, chanting “Free the students in Sanchaung."

The news also spread quickly outside of Myanmar’s borders, with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for “maximum restraint” and “the safe release of all without violence or arrests,” according to his spokesman.

People carry an injured resident, who was shot with rubber bullets, as security force destroyed barricades erected by protesters against the military coup, in Yangon on March 9, 2021.
People carry an injured resident, who was shot with rubber bullets, as security force destroyed barricades erected by protesters against the military coup, in Yangon on March 9, 2021.

The United Nations noted that many of those trapped were women who were peacefully marching in commemoration of International Women’s Day.

The U.S. Embassy said in a statement, "We call on those security forces to withdraw and allow people to go home safely."

The students were able to leave shortly before dawn just hours after security forces left the area, but not before anywhere between 25 and 50 people had been arrested in Sanchaung after a house-to-house search

The standoff happened as the junta revoked the licenses of five independent broadcasters – Mizzima News, the Democratic Voice of Burma, Khit Thit, Myanmar Now and 7Day News – that had been offering extensive coverage of the protests, especially through livestreaming video.

Two journalists with independent Kamayut Media were arrested in Yangon as the military raided the offices of Mizzima News, witnesses said. Live video on social media also showed a nighttime raid on the offices of the Democratic Voice of Burma

In addition to breaking up multiple protests in Yangon, police also fired stun grenades and tear gas at demonstrators in other towns across Myanmar.

Myanmar has been consumed by chaos and violence since February 1, when the military overthrew the civilian government and detained de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other high-ranking NLD officials. Military officials say widespread fraud occurred in last November’s election, which the NLD won in a landslide, a claim denied by Myanmar’s electoral commission.

At least 50 people have been killed across Myanmar since the protests began, including at least two demonstrators Monday in the city of Myitkyina, the capital of northern Kachin State.

VOA Burmese Service contributed to this report.

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