Myanmar: Activists behind bars

MyanamrActivistsinPrison Banner1

Following the February 2021 military coup, thousands in Myanmar have been arbitrarily arrested, detained, and attacked including human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists, political and student activists, poets, writers, and monks. 

As documented by the CIVICUS Monitor, many are facing baseless charges and there have also been reports of torture and ill-treatment during interrogation, and of deaths in custody. The following are some of the human rights defenders and activists who have been detained by the junta.

Min Htin KoKo Gyi1Filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi  

Filmmaker Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi was arrested on 1 February 2021, following the military coup. He is a prominent filmmaker and founder of the Human Dignity Film Institute. He produced an award-winning documentary Floating Tomatoes about the disastrous effect that pesticides are having on Myanmar's Inle Lake.

In August 2019, he was previously arrested and sentenced under Section 505(a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code to a year in prison by the Insein Township Court for a series of Facebook posts critical of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and the military’s role in politics.

(Photo Credit: Myanmar NOW) 

Ko Min Thway Thit1Student activist Ko Min Thway Thit 

Student activist Ko Min Thway Thit was arrested on 1 February 2021, following the coup. On 30 December 2021 he was sentenced to one year imprisonment for driving an unregistered vehicle without a license under Section 95 of the Vehicle Safety and Motor Vehicle Management Law.

He was previously imprisoned in 2015 for his role in the protests against the new education bill and released in 2016. He was also among four fined 30,000 kyats for organising a protest without permission on 7 July 2019 to commemorate Ne Win’s 1962 massacre of student activists.

(Photo Credit: Burma News International) 

ko mya aye kyaukse88 Generation activist, Mya Aye 

Prominent democracy activist and one of the leaders of the 88 Generation was arrested on 1 February 2021, following the coup. Mya Aye was arrested twice under the former junta for his political activism during and after the 1988 uprising and served a total of 12 years in prison.

He faces hate speech charges under Article 505(c) of the Penal Code for incitement, which carries up to two years in prison.


(Photo Credit: The Myanmar Times) 

Ko Wai Moe Naing1Protest leader Ko Wai Moe Naing 

Ko Wai Moe Naing, a prominent anti-junta protest leader in Monywa, Sagaing Region, was beaten and dragged away by junta forces after his motorcycle was rammed on 15th April 2021.  A photo apparently showing him to have been badly tortured went viral the day after his arrest

Wai Moe Naing met with his lawyers for the first time on 27th May 2021, more than a month after his arrest The meeting took place during a court hearing in Monywa Prison, where he is currently being held. He reportedly faces a total of 10 criminal charges, including treason, murder, incitement, unlawful association, wrongful confinement, and armed robbery.

(Photo Credit: Myanmar NOW) 

Man Zar Myay Mon1Land and environmental rights defender, Man Zar Myay Mon 

Man Zar Myay Mon is a land and environmental rights defender in Sagaing Region. He was detained on the morning of 8 June 2021, by soldiers while he was attempting to flee Shan Htoo Village, Chaung-U Township, Sagaing Region. The soldiers shot him in the leg while he was riding a motorbike, immediately captured him, handcuffed him, and blindfolded him. He is being held at an interrogation center at the headquarters of the Tatmadaw’s Northwestern Command in Monywa, Sagaing Region

After he became a leading figure of peaceful anti-coup protests, in March 2021 Man Zar Myay Mon was charged with “incitement” under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code for his participation in the demonstrations and an arrest warrant was issued against him, which forced him to go into hiding. He has worked for many years to promote accountability of the extractive industries for the benefit of local communities. He was also active as one of the community leaders in the Letpadaung mine protests in Sagaing Region.

(Photo Credit: The Irrawaddy) 


Ma Chun BuJournalist Ma Chan Bu

Security forces beat and arrested reporter Ma Chan Bu from the 74 Media on 29 March while she was covering a protest in Myitkyina, Kachin State. She was arrested with Ko La Raw, who is with Kachin Wave. Both media outlets are based in the Kachin State capital. She has been charged under Section 505a of the Penal Code. 

According to reports as of 15 July 2021, nearly half of the 87 journalists arrested by Myanmar’s junta in the five months since the coup remain in detention. 31 reporters were released prior to 30 June 2021 when the junta declared a general amnesty and freed 2,300 prisoners from the country’s jails, including another 14 journalists. In most cases, authorities charged reporters with defamation of the military under Section 505 (a). Dozens of reporters are currently in hiding. She was released on 19 October 2021.

(Photo Credit: BNI Multimedia Group)

Thin Thin Aung1Women human rights defender Thin Thin Aung 

Thin Thin Aung was arbitrarily arrested on 8 April 2021 from Botahtaung Township in Yangon and taken to the Yay Kyi Ai military interrogation centre in Yangon’s Insein Township. On 9 April 2021, military security forces raided her apartment in Yangon and seized her belongings, including her computers. She was taken to the Mingalardon interrogation centre (Yay Kyi Aing) on the same day. After being tortured for two weeks, she was transferred to Yangon’s Insein prison on 21 April 2021. She has been charged under Section 505 (a) of the Penal Code. 

She is a co-founder of Mizzima News Agency and the Women’s League of Burma (WLB), the founder of Women for Justice formerly known as Women’s Rights and Welfare Association of Burma (WRWAB). Since the 1988 uprising, Thin Thin Aung has dedicated her life to the fight for democracy and human rights in Myanmar. She has spent most of her time advocating locally and internationally for justice for women’s human rights. She was released on 19 October 2021.

Myo Aye1

Trade union leader, Ma Myo Aye 

One of Myanmar’s leading trade union leaders, Ma Myo Aye was arrested on 15th April 2021. She was arrested at her office in Yangon’s Shwepyithar Township by around 40 members of the military junta’s security forces. Myo Aye was then taken to a police station for interrogation. 

She is director of Solidarity Trade Union of Myanmar (STUM) and has been one of the most prominent union leaders in the civil disobedience movement, which has been organising national strikes and protests since the military seized power.  She was released on 19 October 2021.

(Photo Credit: Twitter/@cleanclothes)  

Shwe Nya Wah SayadawPro-democracy Buddhist monk, Shwe Nya Wah Sayadaw 

Buddhist monk Shwe Nya War Sayadaw was arrested on 1 February 2021, following the coup. He was detained by the military at his monastery in Yangon. He is an outspoken monk and has been critical of the 969 movement, which is backed by nationalist Buddhist monks.

In 2012, he was ordered to leave his monastery in Yangon because of a speech he gave at a pro-democracy event at the Mandalay office of the National League for Democracy, where he had publicly called for the release of political prisoners and the end of ongoing civil wars.

 (Photo Credit: Kaung Htet/ The Myanmar Times)