Myanmar coup: military arrests senior Suu Kyi aide

Detention of Win Htein on charges of sedition the latest move to quell opposition to military takeover

FILE - In this Aug. 6, 2014, file photo, Win Htein, a parliament member of Myanmar Opposition Leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, talks to journalists during a press conference on a campaign to collect signatures to amend 2008 constitution jointly organized by opposition NLD party and Myanmar prominent 88 Generation Students Group, along with Tin Oo, left, senior leader of NLD, in front of portrait of Suu Kyi at the headquarter of NLD in Yangon, Myanmar. Win Htein has become the latest prominent politician arrested as the country's new military government confronts continuing resistance to its seizure of power. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win, File)

A senior member of Myanmar's deposed ruling party became the latest prominent politician arrested as the country's new military government confronts resistance to its seizure of power.

Win Htein, 79, is a longtime confidante of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and had publicly called for civil disobedience in opposition to Monday's coup.

He was arrested at his home in Yangon and and taken to the capital Naypyidaw, Kyi Toe, a spokesman for Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, said on his Facebook page.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 133 officials or legislators and 14 civil society activists have been detained by the military in connection with its takeover. The NLD said Ms Suu Kyi and ousted President Win Myint are being held under charges that allow for their detention until mid-February.

Win Htein told the Myanmar-language service of BBC radio in a call early on Friday that he was being detained for sedition, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

“They don’t like what I’ve been talking about. They are afraid of what I’m saying,” he said.

The military government blocked access to Facebook on Thursday in an apparent effort to thwart the organising of protests. Facebook is how most people access the internet in Myanmar.

Still, signs of resistance were evident. Medical personnel said they will not work for the military government. Anti-coup graffiti appeared in Yangon as well as flash protests on the streets, and a spirited protest by about 20 people occurred outside a medical school in Mandalay. Three people were arrested there, and Twitter posts that could not be verified said people were detained over the Yangon protests as well.

Thousands of people in the capital Naypyidaw joined a rally in support of the military coup on Thursday, the latest in a number of events that aim to project an image of popular acceptance of the power grab.

The takeover was criticised by US President Joe Biden and others internationally who pushed for the elected government to be restored.

“The Burmese military should relinquish power they have seized, release the advocates and activists and officials they have detained, lift the restrictions on telecommunications, and refrain from violence,” Mr Biden said on Thursday at the US State Department in Washington, using Myanmar’s former name.

The UN Security Council, in its first statement on the matter, “stressed the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law”.

While the US and others have described the military's actions as a coup, the Security Council's unanimous statement did not.

The military seized power shortly before a new session of parliament was to convene on Monday, declaring its actions were legal and constitutional because Ms Suu Kyi's government had refused to address voting irregularities. The state election commission refuted the allegations of irregularities and confirmed that Ms Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory.

The military put all state powers into the hands of the junta, including legislative functions, during a one-year emergency. It also formed a new election commission to investigate its allegations of voting irregularities, to hold a new election at the end of the state of emergency and to turn over power to the winner.

Myanmar was under military rule for five decades after a 1962 coup, and Ms Suu Kyi’s five years as leader were its most democratic period since then, despite continued use of repressive colonial-era laws.