Civilians Resort to Suicide as Myanmar Junta Steps Up Attacks   

By The Irrawaddy 16 February 2023

At least four people in Sagaing Region’s Kantbalu District have killed themselves over the past year due to mental trauma caused by junta raids, according to local sources.

Junta troops and affiliated Pyu Saw Htee militias have subjected locals to frequent raids in the past year, detaining and torturing residents, abducting them for ransom, making death threats, and torching their homes.

The four suicide victims were males aged between 40 and 50, who killed themselves after being tortured or witnessing family members abducted for ransom, according to sources.

A volunteer helping displaced people said: “Many locals are in deep distress as [junta troops] are killing innocent civilians and destroying their property for no reason. Some have committed suicide because of the excessive fear caused by trauma.”

U Hsan Oo, 48, from Pintthar Village in Kantbalu Township was detained by junta troops in November. He spent several weeks in junta custody before managing to escape at the end of December. But dreading that he might be arrested and tortured again, he took his own life in early January.

Displaced people in Kantbalu. / Kyunhla-Kantbalu Activists Group

“He was arrested during a junta raid and held in custody for more than one month,” a resident of Pintthar said. “He was a normal person before that. We don’t know how much the military tortured him, but he became mentally unstable after escaping. We suspect he suffered terrible torture.”

U Hsan Oo escaped with injuries to his body that would heal over time, but his mental scars from torture were still fresh when his parents died and he had to bury them himself.

Junta troops raided Pintthar again in the first week of January. Neighbors thought U Hsan Oo had fled like fellow villagers. But on Jan. 9 they found his body hanging from the tree where he had committed suicide.

Meanwhile in Htanbain Village, a 40-year-old man drowned himself after junta troops abducted his entire family for ransom, according to residents.

Previously, junta troops would leave the area after raiding villages. But since December, they have used Pyu Saw Htee villages as bases to repeatedly raid surrounding villages, according to local revolutionary forces.

Light Infantry Battalions 361, 368, 369 and Pyu Saw Htee militias are involved in the raids in Kantbalu District.

Elsewhere, two men aged between 40 and 50 in Paluthar and Padaukpin villages hanged themselves after their houses were reduced to ashes in junta arson attacks.

The armed resistance against the military regime broke out in Kantbalu District in August 2021, six months after the coup. Since then, the regime has launched numerous attacks in the district, killing, torturing and abducting locals while also torching their houses.

Many people across Myanmar are suffering hopelessness and uncertainty, with unemployment and high living costs adding to the threat of arson, killings, arbitrary arrest, and other factors in the social and economic turmoil that has followed the coup. The mental suffocation of living in such circumstances can drive people to commit suicide, said psychiatrists.

Rescue foundations report that suicides in Myanmar, including Yangon, have surged in the two years since the coup. Depression tops the list of mental problems in Myanmar and is the condition most associated with attempted suicide, according to psychiatrists.