Journalist Detained, Beaten by Red Armband Thugs: Report

By Kyaw Kha 16 March 2015

RANGOON — A journalist from the Burmese language weekly Popular Journal was reportedly beaten on Mar. 10 by three members of the now-infamous red armband gang in Rangoon, after an attempt to conduct an interview over their role in a violent attack on student protesters outside Sule Pagoda.

Reporter Aung Zaw Htoo said he was attacked when he went to a house in Hlaing Tharyar Township after a man he identified as Kyaw Thu, a former source who participated in the Mar. 5 crackdown, phoned him and said that he and others wanted to give an interview and apologize to the public.

“As I entered the house, one man hit me on the head, another grabbed my rucksack and said, ‘you media men are not people who would help us, but are the ones who fuel the fire,’” Aung Zaw Htoo told The Irrawaddy.

He said he was released at 6 pm that evening, after his assailants relieved him of his recording device and changed the password on his phone to prevent him from making calls.

Kyaw Thu and the other two alleged perpetrators were identified by Aung Zaw Htoo in photos taken of the Mar. 5 attack on student demonstrators. He said the men were taking shelter at a home in the ninth ward of Hlaing Tharyar, as they were too scared to live in their home communities after public outrage over the Sule crackdown.

Staff from Popular Journal filed a complaint at the Hlaing Tharyar Police Station on Mar. 11 and officers are now investigating.

“We are investigating the case and we are after Kyaw Thu now,” local police officer Myat Soe told The Irrawaddy. “We don’t care if they are red armband vigilantes or not. We’ll hold the culprits accountable.”

The plainclothes group that assisted police in dispersing the Mar. 5 student protest are believed to have been deputized by senior ranks of the police under Article 128 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Before their attack, they had been seen entering the nearby City Hall building, home to a contingent of police officers.

A similar plainclothes group was also spotted earlier in the week at the Shwepyithar Industrial Zone, where they assisted police in dispersing a group of striking garment workers.