Buddhist Monk Accused of Aiding Ethnic Armed Group Tortured by Myanmar Military

By Lawi Weng 31 October 2019

An ethnic Ta’ang Buddhist monk and abbot from Kutkai in northern Shan State was reportedly tortured by the Myanmar army after the army found military equipment belonging to the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) inside his monastery, according to local sources.

U Vanita, formerly known as Aik Nay, age 37, said soldiers with Infantry Battalion 45 of the Myanmar military beat him, stepped on his head, kicked him, forced him to take off his robes and tied his hands.

The incident happened on Monday when Infantry Battalion 45 heard that some TNLA soldiers had hid military equipment at the monastery in Kutkai. The army went to check inside the monastery and found an old walkie-talkie and a set of uniforms belonging to the TNLA.

U Vanita told The Irrawaddy that 100 Myanmar army soldiers came to search the monastery.

The army arrived at his monastery at 7 a.m. but he was not there at that time, as he had gone to visit another village near the monastery.

When he arrived at the monastery at 9 a.m., the army had surrounded the site and told him to stay at the bottom of the mountain where the monastery sits.

The army showed him the walkie-talkie and TNLA uniforms and accused him of being a member of the TNLA, saying that he was not really a monk.

U Vanita said the army then accused him of hiding guns and asked him where he had hidden them. When he told the army that he did not have any guns, they tied his hands. He told the army that someone had left the military equipment at the end of Buddhist lent, on the day of the full moon.

U Vanita told The Irrawaddy that the army then tortured him and continued to ask him where he had hidden guns.

“They asked me where I hide long and short guns. I replied that I hadn’t hidden anything. Then they kept torturing me,” he said.

The army began to torture him inside a building at the monastery where they then locked him inside a room.

“They tortured me from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. They rolled a stick on my leg. Three soldiers punched me in the face. They hit me on my back with their belt,” he said.

When the army could not get information about any guns by interrogating him, U Vanita said they brought out two small bottles containing 30 methamphetamine tablets.

“They forced me to admit that those tablets belong to me. They threatened to kill me if I did not admit it, so I had to admit it,” he said. The army released him at 7 a.m. on Oct. 29 after he confessed that the methamphetamines belonged to him.

The army did not give him food or water for the whole day and night. When they released him, they gave him some noodles but he could not eat as his mouth was in pain from being punched.

U Vanita was treated at the hospital in Kutkai Town, where he spoke with The Irrawaddy over the phone. He had significant pain in his chest from when the three soldiers beat him.

“It hurts a lot in my chest when I cough. My left eye is a bit red from a wound as well,” he said.

U Vanita said a doctor at the hospital told him that an X-ray showed no serious wounds.

The abbot also said that some army officers from Kutkai visited him at the hospital yesterday and asked him whether he wanted to take action against the army.

The army officers told him that they had already consulted with the Sangha chairman in northern Shan State to make a compromise around the case.

“After I get out of the hospital, I will go to talk with our Sangha chairman. I will decide to take action if he agrees to it,” said U Vanita.

Myanmar army spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that he did not know about an abbot who was tortured by the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known. But he said that the military has a procedure for detaining suspects in conflict areas.

He added that Tatmadaw soldiers must act appropriately throughout the procedure and cannot act based on personal emotion. If they do, the army will take action against the soldiers for misconduct and committing rights abuses.

The Irrawaddy’s Htet Naing Zaw contributed from Naypyitaw.