Like other attorneys targeted before them, they were arrested after leaving their clients’ hearings in Obo Prison
Junta authorities arrested three more Mandalay-based lawyers representing political detainees on Wednesday as they returned home from court hearings inside the city’s prison, according to sources within the local legal network.
The detainees—identified as Tin Win Aung, his wife Thae Su Naing, and Thuta—were reportedly leaving Obo Prison after attending hearings for their clients within the closed court there.
Three of their local colleagues spoke to Myanmar Now on the condition of anonymity and confirmed their arrests to Myanmar Now. At the time of reporting it was not known where they were being held in junta custody or why they had been specifically targeted.
“We still don’t know the details of their arrests. I only heard that Thuta’s vehicle was also seized,” one of the lawyers said.
Following the February 2021 military coup, lawyers representing jailed activists and political opponents of the military have also faced threats to their personal security for challenging the practice of arbitrary detentions in a junta-controlled judiciary.
While the number of lawyers detained across the country is unknown, attorneys in Mandalay said that at least 10 of their colleagues had been arrested since the coup and dozens more are wanted by the military authorities.
Among the detainees is 43-year-old Ywet Nu Aung, a prominent lawyer arrested on April 28. She was representing jailed Mandalay chief minister Zaw Myint Maung and other leaders of the ousted National League For Democracy (NLD) government at the time of her arrest. She was later charged with violating the Counterterrorism Law for allegedly providing funding to an armed resistance group, and was transferred to the Obo Prison in May.
Days before Ywet Nu Aung’s arrest, Si Thu, another lawyer known for helping farmers in land disputes with the military, was beaten by soldiers in front of his wife and children before being taken away from his home in Chanayethazan Township.
Last December, attorney Lwin Lwin Mar and three other lawyers—all women—were also jailed by junta authorities.
Following the series of arrests, lawyers representing junta opponents have reportedly become hesitant to go to their clients’ hearings inside Obo Prison.
Ywet Nu Aung was being held inside one of Myanmar’s most notorious interrogation centres prior to her transfer to the prison
Lawyers have been targeted outside of Mandalay as well. In the military’s administrative capital of Naypyitaw, Thein Hlaing Tun—who was representing Myo Aung, the ousted mayor under the NLD—was detained after leaving a court hearing in May 2021. Similarly, two lawyers for deposed Karen State chief minister Nang Khin Htwe Myint were arrested and charged with incitement in June.
The military council has placed a gag order on the lawyers of incarcerated State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and the NLD’s chief ministers in an effort to restrict information released concerning their trials and charges.
As of Friday, Myanmar’s military council had detained more than 14,000 people since the coup, of whom 3,000 had been released.