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Article

Myanmar: Junta arrests environmental and democracy activist Kyaw Minn Htut and his family

"Environmental activist ‘well-hated’ by Myanmar junta is latest to be arrested", 9 September 2021

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In the seven months since protests erupted, the junta’s clampdown on dissent has caused more than 1,000 deaths. Nearly 8,000 people have been arrested, with 6,324 still detained. On Sept. 6, environmental and democracy activist Kyaw Minn Htut became one of the latest political prisoners.

His arrest comes after another defender, Man Zar Myay Mon, was shot and detained in June. Both men were active members of several prominent civil society and environmental groups, including the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA), a network of more than 400 civil society organizations nationwide, and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global watchdog group.

According to local reports, Kyaw Minn Htut, his brother and his uncle were arrested at the latter’s home by soldiers in the Sagaing region. His wife and their 2-year-old son had both been arrested the day before.

Police reports state Kyaw Minn Htut was detained under Article 50 of the country’s Counterterrorism Law, and allege he supported and gave financial help to groups classified as terrorists by the junta...

Prior to his arrest, Kyaw Minn Htut, who also chaired the legal aid committee of the National League for Democracy, the former ruling party, in his hometown of Mingin, had supported democracy activists in peaceful resistance against the military regime.

Last year, he sued a member of parliament from the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party over the use of hate speech in election campaigns, and was subsequently imprisoned before being released on bail in December 2020.

Faith Doherty, head of the forests campaign at the EIA, said she feared Kyaw Minn Htut’s latest arrest could be an act of vengeance by the junta, and called the terrorism claims “trumped up, farcical charges.”

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Beyond his roles in MATA and EITI, Kyaw Minn Htut had been a longtime forest defender who advocated for sustainable forest management and standard-setting processes to certify timber legality alongside the Myanmar Forest Certification Committee.

He was also a member of the European Union Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (EU FLEGT) multistakeholder group. EU FLEGT aims to reduce illegal logging and improve governance throughout the EU’s timber supply chain, including in source countries such as Myanmar.

As part of his duties, Kyaw Minn Htut regularly conducted on-the-ground monitoring of forests and reported on illegal logging activities.

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