Plainclothes regime officials detained one of the country’s most prominent anti-coup protest leaders on Thursday after ramming him with a car while he rode a motorbike during a rally in Monywa, Sagaing Region.
A group of armed men emerged from the vehicle after hitting Wai Moe Naing and beat the 26-year-old Muslim man before taking him and another protester away, a local relief worker told Myanmar Now.
“There were about five motorbikes riding in front of his to protect him,” he said. “The vehicle crossed over those bikes and smashed into Wai Moe Naing’s motorcycle from the opposite direction,” he said.
“Wai Moe Naing tried to run as he stood up after his motorbike fell,” he added. “Some armed plainclothes individuals came out of the vehicle and arrested him at gunpoint.”
Video footage that circulated on social media appeared to show the moment his motorbike was hit.
A female protester was arrested with him and both were reportedly taken to the city hall and then the northwestern regional military command base, the relief worker said.
Other protesters who participated in the rally have gone into hiding, he added.
The Swedish embassy in Yangon issued a statement saying that it is following Wai Moe Naing’s case closely.
Wai Moe Naing rose to prominence for his role organising daily anti-coup protests in Monywa, which sits on the eastern bank of the Chindwin River, since February 6.
He is also a member of Monywa’s General Strike Committee and the Sagaing Regional Youth Committee.
He was among those who first suggested the idea of banging pots and pans as a symbol of opposition to the coup regime, The Irrawaddy reported. The noise protest is derived from a traditional ritual to drive out evil from one’s home.
It has since become a nightly act of resistance against the military across the country.
Wai Moe Naing was the chair of the Monywa University Student Union from 2014 to 2015. After two police officers were killed in Monywa in late March. the junta hit him with several criminal charges, including murder and theft, a striking government lawyer from the city told Myanmar Now.
Tayzar San, another prominent anti-regime leader from Mandalay, urged people to accelerate anti-coup activities across the country in the wake of Wai Moe naing’s arrest.
He wrote on Facebook that the arrest would not dampen resistance to the military.
“This revolution didn’t begin because of Wai Moe Naing or Tayzar San,” he wrote. “We became known by people because of this revolution. We all are soldiers of this revolution.”
“Always note that there will be many more Wai Moe Naings.” he added.