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Two political prisoners killed during junta escort, Myanmar resistance group claims

Myanmar junta troops shot dead two political prisoners, including one high-profile activist, a resistance group told Radio Free Asia on Friday. 

Nobel Aye and Aung Ko Hein were killed while returning from a court appearance in Bago region, north of Yangon, on Feb. 8, according to Waw township People’s Defense Force citing sources close to the court and hospital. The pair were taken to Waw township’s courthouse by junta troops when they allegedly tried to escape, the resistance group said. 

Nobel Aye is known for her role in protesting against police brutality in Myanmar in 1996, and again in 2007 during the Saffron Revolution’s economic and political protests. She had been arrested twice before,  following both demonstrations.

The prisoners were being interrogated at the No. 901 Artillery Station Command Headquarters, an official of the Waw People’s Defense Force said. 

“They appeared in Waw Court and were shot dead near the exit of Kyaik Hla village between Waw and Paya Gyi on the way back to the military interrogation,” he said, declining to be named for security reasons. “The bodies were well-packed and sent to the morgue. No one was allowed to look at the bodies and they were cremated secretly before nightfall.”

Nobel Aye’s brother, Htet Myat, said his family has not heard any official confirmation from police about his sister.

“We have not yet been informed of what happened and how. I am very worried. As a family, I didn’t know what to do when people who knew about this incident confirmed it,” Htet Myat said on Friday. “I felt uncontrollable. We want reliable and accurate information to be released by those responsible.”

However, the junta has denied that the prisoners died in custody. Bago’s junta spokesperson Tin Oo told RFA the information was just a rumor.

“That’s wrong and fake news, dissemination of false information. We are working in accordance with the law,” he said.

Nobel Aye was allegedly shot dead while returning from a court appearance in Bago region on Feb. 8, 2024. (Myanmar Political Prisoners Network)

Nobel Aye and Aung Ko Hein were arrested by junta soldiers after being caught with weapons on Jan. 29, sources close to her family said.

Nobel Aye was also active in distributing aid during the COVID-19 pandemic and protested frequently after the country’s 2021 military coup, they said.

Aung Ko Hein is a resident of Insein township, Yangon region. RFA could not confirm his personal details. 

In June 2023, troops shot and killed at least 13 political prisoners in central Bago after a prison truck crashed. According to notices junta officials sent to prisoners’ families, 37 detainees attempted to escape when a prison vehicle overturned during a transfer. RFA could not confirm the whereabouts of the remaining prisoners. 

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners’ Feb. 15 statement, more than 4,500 pro-democracy activists and civilians have been killed during the coup, while over 26,000 have been arrested.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.