Myanmar Protesters Recall Regime's Torture During Detention

By The Irrawaddy 10 March 2021

“It was a hell,” said 30-year-old Ko Thura, who was tortured in military custody for around four hours in Myeik, Tanintharyi Region. The Irrawaddy interviewed two of the protesters among those being tortured after their release from custody. Thura is a false name used to protect the protester.

Around 70 protesters, including many students, were arrested at around 9am on Tuesday in the southern city where they gathered to protest against the military regime. The detainees were sent to Myeik’s airbase, separated by gender and the male protesters were ordered to strip, bow their heads and kneel.

“There were around 45 of us. They beat us non-stop with belts, rifles butts, pipes, wooden sticks and chains,” Ko Thura said after his release.

They were told to shout anti-military slogans and sing revolutionary songs while being beaten, he said.

“There were also high-school students. They beat all of us for hours. Those with Amay Suu [State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi] tattoos were targeted more heavily. They said, ‘You dare to call us military dogs’, while hitting us.”

Riot police and soldiers beat civilians during a crackdown on anti-regime protesters in Sagaing Region.

Many protesters were severely wounded, Ko Thura said. He had dark bruises on his back and neck and could not lie on his back, which had visible belt wounds.

In the crackdown, a 23-year-old university student was shot with rubber bullets at close range on the back of her neck when soldiers and police broke into a house where protesters were sheltering after their rally was dispersed.

“I sat down, bowed my head and was suddenly face-to-face with [soldiers and police] after they kicked the door in,” she said. “I didn’t know I had been shot because it was too loud.”

She only realized she had been shot with two rubber bullets when she saw her blood flowing.

She was dragged to a police van and did not receive treatment for several hours on her wounds, two of which were two inches deep. Another young woman suffered from a skull fracture after being hit by a rifle butt.

“They swore at us [the female detainees] and threatened that they could do anything to us or even sell us,” she told The Irrawaddy.

“I urge protesters to run to avoid being detained. They are so brutal,” she said. “But we cannot give up because that is what they want. I will do my best in the protest movement.”

On the same day in Yangon, the family of detained National League for Democracy (NLD) member Ko Zaw Myat Lin, was informed of his shocking death hours after he was arrested by the security forces.

He was in charge of the Suu Vocational Institute in Shwe Pyi Thar Township, Yangon Region. His widow said Ko Zaw Myat Lin suffered a large abdominal wound. The military claimed Ko Zaw Myat Lin was injured by a pointed object while climbing a fence while attempting to escape arrest. He was the second NLD member to die in detention. U Khin Maung Latt, an NLD ward chairman in Pabedan Township, Yangon, reportedly died after being tortured, hours after he was taken from his home by soldiers and police.

Detained protesters were violently beaten in Myeik on Tuesday. / Twitter

Elsewhere, at least three young protesters have reportedly died while in military detention. The media has counted at least 60 deaths since early February with many victims shot dead during crackdowns. At least 2,000 people have been detained by the regime since the Feb. 1 coup, including elected leaders, lawmakers, election officials, protesters and civil servants who joined the civil disobedience movement.

Around half of the group arrested in Myeik on Tuesday were released that afternoon. Six female protesters and at least 20 males among the group were not released and sentenced to a month in prison.

Those released signed statements saying they would not protest again.

“They said if we are rearrested, our family’s will get our dead bodies,” Ko Thura said. But he said he will return to the street after recovering from the injuries.

“Protesters should run and avoid arrest if possible. You must not be arrested by those non-humans,” he said.

The tortured protester called for the international community, including the United Nations and US, to take action on Myanmar.

“The soldiers told us not to rely on help from the UN and US as they beat us. But democracy must be restored. I cannot dare to think of what will happen if we don’t get it back,” he added.

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