Myanmar junta detains prominent Mandalay-based lawyer representing ousted NLD chief minister

Ywet Nu Aung is reportedly charged with a terrorism statute that the military has used to prosecute activists and journalists

Junta troops arrested a well-known lawyer early on Thursday morning who has been representing deposed National League for Democracy (NLD) party leaders in Mandalay, sources close to her confirmed.

Police raided the office of 43-year-old Ywet Nu Aung at around 4am, one of her colleagues told Myanmar Now. She is currently being detained at the Chanayethazan Township police station, the individual said on the condition of anonymity.

Another attorney told Myanmar Now on Friday that Ywet Nu Aung had been charged under Section 50j of the so-called Counterterrorism Law. The military has been using the provision to prosecute journalists and anti-junta activists.

According to the second source, she was remanded at the Chanayethazan Township court in Mandalay on Thursday and denied access to visitors.

“They arrested her just because they wanted to,” he said of the military.

Junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun confirmed Ywet Nu Aung’s arrest to local media outlet One News Myanmar on Friday and said that she was arrested for providing funds in support of the People’s Defence Force (PDF), an anti-junta resistance group.

Zaw Min Tun told One News Myanmar that the military was interrogating her after allegedly receiving incriminating information during testimony from a Mandalay-based PDF member in military custody.

Ywet Nu Aung is a member of the legal team representing the NLD’s detained Mandalay chief minister Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, who was hit with several criminal charges by the junta after the military coup on February 1 last year.

She rose to prominence in 2019 after representing the family of a toddler who was sexually assaulted at a private primary school in the administrative capital Naypyitaw. The high-profile child rape case enraged the public and the following investigation and lawsuit quickly garnered national attention.

In what became a nationwide campaign to raise awareness of child sexual abuse, people rallied on behalf of the three-year-old and her family, using the slogan “Justice for Victoria,” a pseudonym employed to protect the girl’s identity.

Ywet Nu Aung also represented Myanmar Now’s editor-in-chief Swe Win in a defamation lawsuit brought against him by supporters of Wirathu, a Buddhist monk notorious for his anti-Muslim sermons. The case stemmed from an online post that the 44-year-old journalist shared on Facebook in 2017 which suggested that Wirathu had violated the code of monastic ethics by praising the murderers of prominent Muslim lawyer Ko Ni, killed that year.

She faced both online and physical threats from supporters of the Buddhist nationalist group known as Ma Ba Tha for working on Swe Win’s case.

Following the 2021 coup, lawyers who have represented jailed activists and political opponents of the junta have also faced threats to their security for speaking out against the military’s arbitrary detentions.

The military council has placed a gag order on lawyers of NLD leaders, including those representing detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, in an effort to restrict information released concerning their trials and charges.