Tortured Myanmar political activist in critical condition after arrest

A prominent Myanmar political activist is in critical condition after enduring torture at the hands of junta forces during his arrest over the weekend, his family told RFA.

Kyaw Min Yu, better known by his alias Ko Jimmy, had been a staunch opponent of the Feb. 1 coup that deposed Myanmar’s democratically elected government and re-established military rule, only a decade after the feared army had partly receded to the barracks after five decades in control.

His wife, Nilar Thein, told RFA’s Myanmar Service that he had suffered a head injury during the arrest in Yangon’s North Dagon township Saturday.

“We’ve learned that he’s now at the military hospital and is in critical condition. Since the men who took him away were junta soldiers, we are expecting the worst-case scenario,” she said.

“We have seen in the past that many people who were arrested either died or were left with serious lifelong trauma because they were severely tortured. We have prepared ourselves for everything, mentally as well,” said Nilar Thein, vowing to hold the junta responsible for what transpires.

The junta on Feb. 13 charged Ko Jimmy with using his popularity to spread defamatory remarks on his social media accounts

Ko Jimmy was a leader of the so-called 88-generation, a group of students who led the August 1988 uprising against the previous military regime that had run Myanmar, then known as Burma, since 1962, running the economy into the ground and creating a pariah state.

Their protests led to reforms that eventually ushered in a brief period of democratic rule that ended with this year’s coup.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun told RFA he was not able to comment on Ko Jimmy’s beatings or medical treatment.

Prior to his recent arrest, Ko Jimmy was imprisoned from 1988 to 2005 for his political activities and again from 2007 to 2012, spending 21 years in prison.

Ko Ko Gyi, another 88-generation leader who shared a cell with Ko Jimmy after the 1988 uprising, told RFA that Jimmy and his family were special figures in the pro-democracy movement in the nation of 54 million people.

"I was very worried since I heard about his arrest. I also worry about his daughter. Throughout her life, she didn’t have a chance to live together with both parents,” he said.

“I am worried that she might have a deep trauma as she has had to grow up with her aunts and grandmothers,” said Ko Ko Gyi.

Zeyar Lwin, a student leader, told RFA he believed Ko Jimmy would recover.

"He’s been familiar with prisons and made lots of sacrifices since 1988. He was imprisoned and away from his family and children for many years,” said Zeyar Lwin

“But this time, he has to face not only prison but also torture. He will never betray any part of his cause because he has a strong will to oppose the dictatorship."

The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) released a statement Monday condemning the arrest and torture of Ko Jimmy.

“We have witnessed this illegitimate military junta arrest political activists and anyone against them in brutal crackdowns. Many have been shot dead or brutally tortured to death. It is clear, the military is unlawfully committing crime against civilians as they wish,” the AAPP said.

The NGO said that the junta would be responsible for whatever happens to Ko Jimmy and called on the international community to give protection to those who have been wrongfully detained.

According to AAPP statistics, the junta has arrested, charged, or sentenced 7032 people, and has killed 1199 people since the Feb. 1 coup.

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