Terrorism charge brought against former NLD member in Mandalay

The military has filed a terrorism charge against a former member of Myanmar’s ousted ruling party following his arrest in Mandalay late last month, according to a source close to the victim.

Khin Maung Chin, 40, was detained on December 19 by junta soldiers posing as clients of his peanut oil business, and charged 10 days later under Section 52a of the Counter-Terrorism Law, the source said. The charge carries a sentence of three to seven years in prison.

“He was accused of encouraging terrorist activities. I heard he was sent to Obo Prison on December 29 and had his first hearing in prison last week,” the source told Myanmar Now.

According to the source, Khin Maung Chin had not been involved in politics since the military seized power nearly two years ago.

“He was just selling his peanut oil and hasn’t been politically active for a while now,” he said. “It’s really shocking to see that they filed such a serious charge against him, but this is not unusual for the military council.”

The source added that relatives had been caring for Khin Maung Chin’s 90-year-old mother since his arrest.

“We still don’t know how badly he was tortured during his interrogation as we haven’t had contact with his family, but I am sure it was pretty bad. I’m just glad that he is still alive,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Khin Maung Chin became a member of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in 2012, but hasn’t been active in the party since the 2021 coup.  Since then, he has been mainly engaged in running a peanut oil business under the name of Chin Chin, which he also uses as the brand of his product.

Prior to his arrest, pro-regime channels on the online messaging platform Telegram monitored his social media accounts, which they said he was using to foment terrorism.

Among the posts they highlighted were one on his Facebook page critical of the military council’s response to an earthquake in Mandalay. Another was a birthday greeting to former NLD vice-president Dr. Zaw Myint Maung. Messages referring to Aung San Suu Kyi, the deposed state counsellor, as “mother,” were also deemed a threat to the regime.

Participants in the Telegram exchanges suggested that soldiers pose as customers in order to arrest Khin Maung Chin. A photo, apparently taken on December 20 while he was undergoing interrogation, was later distributed on the same Telegram channels.

Khin Maung Chin was also identified as a member of the LGBT community, making him especially vulnerable to abuse in junta custody. 

Last month, the regime sentenced Mandalay-based LGBT activist and transgender woman Sue Sha Shinn Thant to 22 years in prison on terrorism charges. Sources said she was tortured and sexually assaulted during her interrogation following her arrest in October 2021.

According to a member of the anti-regime Mandalay Strike Committee, the junta also arrested a monk earlier this month. Venerable Asara, 40, was taken into custody on January 3 and has not been heard from since, the source said.  

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