Myanmar Human Rights Body: Killings at Mandalay Youth Center Tied to Rule Breaches, Staff Shortage

By Zarni Mann 12 August 2020

MANDALAY—The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) said Wednesday that the killing of two teenagers last week at Mandalay Youth Center was the result of poor adherence to rules and regulations and insufficient numbers of staff at the center.

Pyae Phyo Maung and Khaing Zaw Tun, both age 17, were beaten by other youth at the center last week and died soon after.

The parents of the deceased accused the center authorities of being involved in the deaths and the news since gone viral on the Internet. The MNHRC began investigating the deaths on Friday.

Pyae Phyo Maung, Khaing Zaw Tun and three others from Mandalay’s Monywa Township were sentenced to two years in prison for robbery after confessing and were sent to Mandalay Youth Center on July 26, 2018.

During the center’s lunch time on Aug. 5, the two tried to run away, according to the center authorities and their parents. They were reportedly caught, brought back to the center and then beaten up by the other youth at the center.

Pyae Phyo Maung died that day and Khaing Zaw Tun died the next day. According to their parents, their bodies were bruised and injured, mainly on their heads.

“The officials from the MNHRC found that there were only five staff at the center on that day and that the older teenagers tried to catch [the deceased],” MNHRC chair U Hla Myint told The Irrawaddy. “The youth and the teachers there said the runaway youth and the others got in a fight, which resulted in the death of the pair.”

According to the MNHRC investigation team, the center said that Pyae Phyo Maung died one hour after being brought back to the center, after he was beaten by the older youth.

“Since there are few staff at the center, due to the low budget for youth centers, the staff could not fully handle the youth. In addition, we found that the adherence to the rules and regulations of the center was weak, and that resulted in such an incident,” U Hla Myint added.

There are 23 staff and about 500 youth at Mandalay Youth Center. The youth at the center have been sentenced to serve prison terms and some are still facing lawsuits at courts in Mandalay.

The MNHRC said it sent the report on the incident to the minister of home affairs and the minister of social welfare, relief and resettlement, along with the suggestion to set strict rules and regulations for the center.

“We suggest that they do a proper investigation, take action against those who brutally beat [Pyae Phyo Maung and Khaing Zaw Tun] and set strict rules and regulation to avoid violence at the center,” U Hla Myint added.

The MNHRC said the police in Mandalay are handling the case and investigating the teenagers who were involved in the incident to take legal action against them.

“These youth centers have to handle youth who committed crimes, many of them with incorrigible behaviors,” U Hla Myint explained. “However, letting youth commit violations and become involved in such a brutal incident is not good and shows the need for special care and rules and regulations. The low numbers of staff and low budget have resulted in such brutal incidents in many youth centers in our country that affect the youth as well as the teachers and the staff.”

According to figures from the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, there are 10 youth training schools operating under its Department of Social Welfare in: Mandalay; Yangon; Thanlyin, Yangon Region; Lashio, Shan State; Mawlamyine, Mon State; and Labutta, Ayeyarwady Region.

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