Myanmar’s junta arrests former rapper for ‘terrorism’

A former rapper who became one of the top aides to the head of Myanmar’s deposed National League for Democracy (NLD) government, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been arrested by authorities for allegedly orchestrating several attacks on junta targets in Yangon.

Phyoe Zeyar Thaw, a 40-year-old NLD lawmaker who once represented the capital Naypyidaw’s Zabu Thiri township constituency, was taken into custody during a Thursday afternoon raid by around 70 soldiers and police officers on his apartment in Yangon’s Dagon Seikkan township.

The arrest was featured in pro-military media on Thursday with photos of Phyoe Zeyar Thaw kneeling in handcuffs with bruises on his face along with a gun and some ammunition. The same outlet published photos of 40 young men and seven young women who were arrested between Nov. 12 and Nov. 17 for allegedly carrying out “terror attacks” in various parts of Yangon at Phyoe Zeyar Thaw’s behest.

The NLD official, whose band “Acid” released what is widely considered Myanmar’s first hip-hop album in 2000, was accused of recruiting youths and orchestrating violence in Yangon at the direction of “terrorist groups” like the NLD, the shadow National Unity Government and Parliament’s Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Committee of Representatives.

The junta also alleged that Phyo Zeyar Thaw led a recent attack on police and army units in Yangon’s Htantabin and Kyimyindine townships.

Authorities also arrested Phyo Zeyar Thaw’s sister Khin Pa Pa Thaw in a raid on her home in Yangon on Friday morning, said a source close to the family, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

“A friend of mine who lives near Khin Pa Pa Thaw’s house told me about what happened,” the source said.

“She was arrested in her home at about 8:30 a.m. [The friend] said there were many soldiers around and the entire road was blocked off by military vehicles at the time of the arrest. No one has been seen entering or leaving the house since the arrest.”

Aung Kyi Nyunt, chairman of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Committee of Representatives, refused to comment on the allegations against Phyo Zeyar Thaw but said that Myanmar has suffered the loss of many young people due to the military’s “foolish” Feb. 1 coup d’état.

“I don’t even have enough strength to speak about this, but another reason I don’t want to talk about him is that my comments could make him suffer more,” the former leader of NLD lawmakers in parliament from 2015-2020 told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“It’s not just young people. It doesn’t matter if you are young or old. People are losing lives and property and there’s a big loss for the country because of this stupidity. To put it bluntly, we must end this evil system.”

Holding the junta accountable

Youths make up the one of the largest demographic groups targeted for arrest by the military in Yangon, according to Zeyar Lwin, a leader of the Takatha University Alumni Association. He said that despite feelings of anguish and frustration, fellow youths must take up the roles of those arrested and work “even harder” to remove the junta from power.

“This current revolution is not based on one group or one person, but a mass movement,” he said.

“So, we must keep on doing what we must do, even though we may be saddened by the events. I believe we have to fill in the gaps left by those detained or who have given up their lives for the resistance.”

Bo Bo Oo, chairman of the NLD in Yangon’s Sangyaung township, said junta leader Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing will be held responsible for all crimes committed against the youth in the aftermath of the coup.

“Since the Feb. 1 coup, we have seen that the military does not care about the people at all,” he said.

“They shoot at everything and destroy everything. It’s bad and ugly. Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing must take full responsibility for everything that happened in the country after Feb. 1.”

In a similar case to that of Phyoe Zeyar Thaw, 88 Generation student leader Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Ko Jimmy, was recently arrested by the military, and charged with orchestrating violence and plotting terrorist attacks in Yangon. Some 25 resident youths were taken into custody in the lead up to his arrest.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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