"The scale of arrests since the coup gives you a clear indication of where the military junta is taking the country: a place with no space for critics or any political opposition to exist," Mu Sochua, a board member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and former Cambodian Member of Parliament (MP), noted in a statement received in Jakarta, Tuesday.
"All regional and international actors must get this clear: there can be no way out of the current situation without all those arbitrarily arrested being released.” Mu Sochua affirmed.
According to rights organization Assistance for Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), in merely four weeks, at least 913 individuals, including politicians, members of the previous Union Election Commission (UEC), civil servants, human rights activists, and students, were arrested and kept in detention or have outstanding arrest warrants against them.
The AAPP also estimates that some 30 individuals lost their lives in the violent crackdown by Myanmar’s security forces on peaceful protesters.
Of those arrested and detained, at least 59 are elected representatives of the Union and local parliaments comprising the state counsellor, president and vice president, speaker and deputy speaker of Parliament, chief ministers, and Union and regional-level MPs.
Most are placed in detention at unknown locations, without charge or access to their lawyers. Some are detained in military barracks, such as tactical command centers.
"Most of those detained have not been charged and have neither seen a lawyer nor their families in about a month. Those people are at risk. Being out of sight is where torture and ill-treatment can happen, and we all know this is not foreign to Myanmar’s jails," Mu Sochua cautioned.
In the few cases where they have been charged, the laws used against the MPs include: Section 505(b) of the Penal Code (publication or sharing of statements with intent to cause fear or alarm to the public), Section 25 of the Natural Disaster Management Law (causing a disaster through any negligent or willful act), Section 8 of the Export and Import Law (exporting or importing prohibited goods), and Section 67 of the Telecommunications Law (for possessing or using telecommunication equipment that requires a license).
Furthermore, the junta has been threatening and harassing members of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH).
The Committee members took an oath days after the coup and have vowed to continue to fulfill their mandate as representatives of the people.
On February 26, the new military-appointed UEC declared that it is illegal to form committees representing parliaments and threatened to take legal action against those doing so.
At least 21 elected representatives, including 17 members of the CRPH, are currently in hiding after finding out about arrest warrants being issued against them under Section 505(a) or (b) of the Penal Code and/or the Natural Disaster Management Law.
The APHR alleges that by imprisoning and harassing elected representatives, who are purely exercising the mandate of the public, the military is trying to muffle the people’s voices and rob them of their choices.
"We call on all parliamentarians worldwide to act in solidarity with Myanmar and use their position within and outside the parliament to call for all those arbitrarily detained to be immediately released and to work for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar. Let us make sure that our colleagues sit in parliament and not in jail," Mu Sochua emphasized. Related news: Indonesian, Singaporean foreign ministers discuss Myanmar issue
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