RANGOON—Eight minors and three adults from Mon State have been held in detention since mid-April and have suffered from torture during police interrogations, an ethnic Mon group claimed this week.
The young men were arrested during Thingyan, the Burmese Water Festival, after they allegedly attacked an officer in Yoe Goe village, in Mudon Township, on April 17, the Mon Youth Forum said in a statement.
Eight of the detainees are under 18 years of age, one of whom is 15 years old, while three others are adults. The minors are reportedly held in a juvenile jail in the Mon capital Moulmein.
The verdict in the case is due on May 10. The three adults are being charged under Penal Code Article 333 and could face prison terms of up to 10 years for attacking a civil servant, according to the Mon Youth Forum. The eight minors are being charged under the 1993 Child Law.
A 2012 Unicef report said the Child Law’s criminal sentencing provisions include “admonition and release, a bond, a fine, supervision of a probation officer or for more serious infringements, being sent to training school or to prison.”
According to the Mon Youth Forum, the arrests were the result of an argument between the youths and a policeman, named Myint Naing, which started after the officer took a Mon flag from them during Thingyan festivities and stamped it under his feet.
When he refused to hand it back to the youths, a fight erupted and in the ensuing melee the officer lost his weapon. It was returned to the police several days later.
Jun Dea Non, a spokesperson for the forum, said the officer was to blame for the incident. “Our youths are not the ones who started this conflict. Myint Naing was drunk and he abused his power. The authorities need to punish him, instead of punishing our youth,” he said, adding that the court had failed to investigate the reason for incident.
The activist did not comment on the fact that the youths had taken a police weapon.
Jun Dea Non claimed the suspects had been beaten, kicked during police interrogation, and at least one of them, the 15-year-old Aung Naing Moe, had his face pierced with a needle. “We found his face has a black spot when he was at court on May 2. This is where the police hurt him with a needle, he told his family,” he said.
Mon State deputy Police Chief Myo Thant could not be reached for comment on the case.
The case has also drawn attention of the three Mon State political parties. Lower House MP Banyar Aung Moe, of the All Mon Region Democracy Party, said it seemed that the police had violated the rights of the youths.
“We need to investigate this case, as there is now rule of law in our country. The Parliament and the government should not sit by [idly],” he said, adding that Mon MPs would support the Mon Youth Forum if it could produce evidence to show that the police are at fault.
News agency Democratic Voice of Burma recently aired a police video that supposedly showed the brawl between the Mon youths and the police officer. The supposed video evidence created a stir among Mon viewers, who felt that it that falsely showed that the youths were to blame for the incident.
“They cut and paste at the video clip, which to prove these youths beat the police officer and they [police] wanted to claim that they were not at fault,” said a senior Buddhist monk, who declined to be named out of fear for retribution from authorities. He said a lawyer had been hired to defend the youths.