IOM staff member in Kachin State arrested by military council on two charges

It has been nearly one month since Dr Htet Lwin Win, the Kachin State project officer for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), was arrested and charged with sedition and incitement.

He was arrested on May 12, and is believed to be detained in Myitkyina Prison.

The 34-year-old has been working with the IOM, a related organisation of the UN, since late 2018. He has been charged with violating Section 124a and Section 505a of the Penal Code. The regime authorities accused him of putting a picture of coup leader Min Aung Hlaing in a demeaning position on his doorstep and compiling a list of health workers who were not involved in the anti-coup Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) on his mobile phone. 

Section 124a—for sedition—carries either a 7- or 20-year prison sentence and/or a fine. 

Section 505a for incitement was amended by the junta soon after the February 1 military coup, and carries a maximum prison sentence of three years.

“In close cooperation with the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, IOM has been trying its best to have access to Dr. Htet Lwin Win and to secure his release. IOM has requested the military to respect the privileges and immunities of the UN staff,” a spokesperson for the IOM’s regional office for Asia and the Pacific told Myanmar Now by email on Friday. 

A family member Htet Lwin Win said his third hearing was held on June 9, and that the prosecution had filed a request to suspend the charge under Section 124a. At the time of reporting, it was not known if the charge would be dropped.  

The family member also told Myanmar Now that the case against Htet Lwin Win is based on Facebook photos unintentionally kept on his phone. It was alleged that the photos were being collected to carry out public shaming, or what is known as “social punishment,” against health workers not involved in the CDM.

Htet Lwin Win’s lawyer was also arrested for allegedly violating Section 505a, but the reason for his arrest was not known at the time of reporting.

In the four months since the coup, the military junta has killed 858 people and arrested nearly 6,000, according to figures compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners as of June 9.

The military junta has repeatedly said the death toll is around 300.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include comments from the IOM’s regional spokesperson.

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