By THE IRRAWADDY 20 July 2021
U Nyan Win, a central executive committee (CEC) member of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s long-time personal lawyer, died of COVID-19 on Tuesday, while being detained by the Myanmar military regime.
The 79-year-old was arrested on the morning of the junta’s Feb.1 coup and subsequently held in Insein Prison, where he caught coronavirus. He was moved to intensive care at Yangon General Hospital on July 11.
He is one of the first political prisoners to die of COVID-19, as Myanmar struggles with a spike in infections and fatalities from a devastating third wave of coronavirus.
U Nyan Win joined the NLD in 1988, soon after the party was formed following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising.
He was elected as a member of parliament representing Mon State’s Paung Township in the 1990 election, which the previous military regime refused to recognise. He was also a personal attorney for detained State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during her previous periods of house arrest.
“He was like a parent to us,” said Ko Kyaw Wunna, the secretary of the NLD’s Central Research Committee. He was arrested many times, but released without being imprisoned, “but this time, he gave his life”, he added.
U Nyan Win is survived by his wife and a daughter. His wife has been suffering from
Alzheimer’s disease for nearly a decade and family friends are also worried about her health.
While acting as a spokesperson for the NLD, U Nyan Win also led the party’s electoral campaigns in the 2012 by-elections and the 2015 and 2020 general elections. He was always outspoken about the undemocratic, military-crafted 2008 Constitution.
As tensions between the NLD and military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing intensified after the 2020 election, U Nyan Win anticipated that the military would launch a coup, according to Ko Kyaw Wunna.
“As a legal expert, he said the coup could happen, but that the military cannot seize power under its 2008 Constitution and that, if they did so, they would face a backlash one day in accordance with the law. He did not expect that the coup would last as the country’s economy has nose-dived due to the COVID-19 situation,” said Ko Kyaw Wunna.
On Feb. 1, the NLD’s senior leadership, including the whole CEC, was detained by the junta just hours after the coup and the detention of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. U Nyan Win’s whereabouts were unknown until March 6, when his family heard that he had been moved to Insein Prison.
Subsequently, he was charged with sedition under Article 505(b) of the Penal Code in regard to NLD statements issued on Feb. 7 and Feb. 13.
Daw San Mar Lar Nyunt, U Nyan Win’s lawyer and a family friend, worked with him for 32 years and said that he was healthy when she met him earlier this month.
U Nyan Win had been diagnosed with cardiomegaly, an enlargement of the heart, which is often a sign of heart disease. He also had gout and gastric problems.
More than 2,100 people have died of COVID-19 since Feb. 1, according to the junta-controlled Ministry of Health and Sports. But the actual death toll is believed to be far higher due to the under-reporting of coronavirus fatalities.
Insein Prison, which holds some 13,000 prisoners, was locked down on July 8 to curb the spread of coronavirus and trials of the detainees have been suspended. Coup leader Sen, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said on Sunday that there are 315 COVID-19 victims inside prisons across Myanmar and 190 of them are still undergoing treatment, while five people with underlying conditions have died. However, he didn’t disclose how many of those infected are political prisoners. There have been reports of other political detainees being infected with coronavirus.
919 civilians had been killed and 6,828 arrested during anti-regime protests as of Monday. Over 5,000 people are still being detained, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.