Myanmar Junta Killed Over 1,500 People, Detained 11,000 in Year Following Coup

By The Irrawaddy 1 February 2022

As the Myanmar regime celebrated the first anniversary of its coup on Tuesday, its leaders could point to two more grim milestones: they killed at least 1,500 people and arrested more than 11,000 in that year, mainly for anti-junta activism.

Exactly one year ago today the military staged a coup, claiming that the 2020 general election that brought a landslide victory to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s then-ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) was stolen, contrary to the assertions of local and international election observers. The military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party did very poorly in the election.

While seizing power, the military arrested the country’s elected leaders and government ministers including President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Since then, the regime has ruthlessly carried out its barbaric crackdown on dissent nationwide in a bid to suppress widespread public opposition to its rule, resulting in the deaths of about 1,500 people, including more than 120 children.

In the 12 months since the military seized power, not a single day has passed in Myanmar without innocent people being brutally killed, arbitrarily arrested or targeted with violence and repression by the junta. And there is no end in sight as long as the regime exists.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an activist group monitoring post-coup killings and arrests, stated in its most recent briefing that it had verified the deaths of at least 1,503 people at the hands of the junta’s forces as of Monday, adding that the actual number of fatalities is likely to be much higher.

According to the group, more than 11,800 people have been arrested by the junta’s forces for voicing their opposition to the military regime. Of them, nearly 9,000 remain imprisoned—around three times the number sent to the country’s detention facilities in the wake of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising.

Among those imprisoned by the junta over the past year are peaceful protesters, journalists, elected leaders, lawmakers and members of the NLD, students, celebrities, striking civil servants, teachers, engineers, artists, medics, railway drivers, politicians and even children. The junta has also arrested at least 301 family members in place of wanted anti-regime activists when junta troops could not find them at their homes.

Ill treatment behind bars

Those arrested by the junta are frequently subject to various forms of torture and ill treatment including routine beatings with dangerous objects such as cables, the butts of guns and glass bottles, as well as being burned with lit cigarettes and experiencing sexual abuse, including having sticks thrust into their genitals.

Several political detainees have reportedly been tortured to death, including members of the NLD, within hours of their arrest.

The AAPP said the bodies of those tortured to death in custody are usually returned to their families with a fabricated story as to the cause of death, but with obvious signs of torture and mutilation, sometimes with organs removed.

The activist group added that civilians arrested after being shot by the regime’s forces are often denied medical treatment and subsequently die from their injuries.

Since the coup, at least 290 people have died during torture or in detention as a result of the harsh conditions in the junta’s detention facilities, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office, while hundreds of others have been forcibly disappeared by the junta.

Additionally, military tribunals have sentenced 84 people to death in summary proceedings that do not meet international fair trial standards.

“One year after the military seized power, the people of Myanmar—who have paid a high cost in both lives and freedoms lost—continue to advocate relentlessly for their democracy,” UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said.

She appealed on Friday for the international community to intensify pressure on Myanmar’s military to stop its campaign of violence against citizens, and to insist on the prompt return to civilian rule.

“I urge governments—in the region and beyond—as well as businesses, to listen to this plea. It is time for an urgent, renewed effort to restore human rights and democracy in Myanmar and ensure that perpetrators of systemic human rights violations and abuses are held to account,” the human rights chief said.

Civilians are beaten and arrested by the regime’s forces during a crackdown on anti-coup protesters in Monywa, Sagaing Region in February 2021. / CJ

The junta’s crimes in numbers

According to AAPP documentation, one year on since the coup:

• 1,503 people have been killed by the junta’s forces, including 125 children (18 years and below).
• March 27 was the deadliest day of the revolution against the regime, with 158 peaceful protesters shot dead by the junta forces on a single day.
• 301 family members of wanted activists have been taken as hostages.
• 244 people have been brutally tortured to death by the junta.
• At least 55 civilians have been burnt to death in Sagaing Region and Kayah State, with massacres in Bago, Phruso, Kani, Matup and Kale killing 184.
• The junta has also targeted journalists with arrest and torture; thus far, at least 139 journalists have been arrested by junta forces and three killed.
• The junta has set fire to towns and villages on 215 occasions, destroying over 2,000 homes and buildings since the coup, as far as can be confirmed.
• The junta has unlawfully seized 267 properties from lawmakers, NLD members and civilians accused of contact with the National Unity Government (NUG), the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) and the People’s Defense Force (PDF) since Feb. 1.

You may also like these stories:

Thirty Junta Soldiers Reportedly Killed in Upper Myanmar 

Myanmar Junta Expands its Intelligence Operation

Military Junta Administrators Quit After Armed Group’s Death Threats