Myanmar’s detained former president Win Myint testified in court Tuesday that senior military officials attempted to force him to resign, citing a false health condition on the day of the coup that saw the junta seize power, according to his lawyers.
Speaking during a hearing for his trial on charges of “defamation” at a court in the capital Naypyidaw, Win Myint said that two high-ranking officers—possibly lieutenant generals or generals—came into his home early on the morning of Feb. 1 and demanded that he step down due to “ill health,” his defense team said in a statement.
When he refused, the officers threatened him, but he would not be swayed, his lawyers said.
“The president turned down their proposal, saying he was in good health,” the statement said.
“The officers warned him the denial would cause him much harm, but the president told them he would rather die than consent.”
According to the statement, Win Myint ordered the officers not to orchestrate a power grab and demanded that they adhere to the law.
The former president was detained later that day, along with ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) leader and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and several other high-ranking party officials, and the military took control of the country.
In the more than eight months since the coup, security forces have killed 1,167 civilians and arrested at least 7,219, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)—mostly during crackdowns on anti-junta protests.
The junta says it unseated the NLD government because, they claimed, the party had engineered a landslide victory in Myanmar’s November 2020 election through widespread voter fraud. It has yet to present evidence of its claims and public unrest is at an all-time high.
Win Myint’s defense team said that during the hearing on Tuesday, prosecutors repeatedly asked him about the formation of the shadow National Unity Government (NUG), Parliament’s Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Committee of Representatives (CRPH), and the anti-junta People’s Defense Force (PDF) militia.
The former president responded that he had nothing to do with thes groups, which were established after his arrest, and his defense team objected to further inquiries about the groups’ activities, saying the questions were irrelevant to the case.
Win Myint, Aung San Suu Kyi, and former Naypyidaw Mayor Myo Aung all face the charge of “defamation of the state” under Article 505 (b) of Myanmar’s Penal Code related to two statements issued by the NLD Central Executive Committee (CEC) on Feb. 7 and 13 that prosecutors say were meant to disrupt public order and instigate against the state.
Win Myint has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The NLD CEC’s Feb. 7 statement urged foreign governments, diplomatic missions, United Nations agencies, and international organizations not to recognize the junta and claimed the military had violated Myanmar’s 2008 constitution by staging a coup against elected government leaders.
The Feb. 13 statement, which was released while the junta was circulating a restrictive bill on cyber security, claimed that all regulations, rules, and laws enacted by the military government were illegal.
The court in Naypyidaw on June 29 overruled objections by defense lawyers that the statements were inadmissible because they were released after the leaders were detained and held incommunicado.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.