More than 100 civilians including children are being held hostage by Myanmar’s military regime, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). They are the relatives of wanted anti-regime activists and were arrested in place of the activists when junta troops could not find them at their homes.
The regime took 177 people hostage between Feb. 1 and Sept. 8. It has released 40 of them, but 137 remain in custody. Of the 177, 15 are children, nine of whom have been released, leaving six in detention.
On Sept. 5, junta troops detained human rights activist Ko Kyaw Minn Htut’s wife and their 2-year-old son. The following day, Ko Kyaw Minn Htut, his brother and his uncle were detained in Monywa, Sagaing Region, according to one of their relatives.
“The 2-year-old child has not yet been released. And their whereabouts is still unknown. It appears Ko Kyaw Minn Htut turned himself in after learning that his wife and child had been taken hostage,” the relative said.
In another case, junta troops detained three sons, aged 17, 13 and 11, of a wanted activist in Ayeyarwady Region’s Ingapu Township on Aug. 30 after failing to find him.
The 13-year-old was released the following day but the other two are still being held at Ingapu Township’s police station.
Human rights activists say that by holding children hostage, the junta is violating not only child rights but also international humanitarian law.
“The military regime does not respect child rights, but violates the rights throughout the process starting with their arrest. It only wants to use them as deterrents [to their parents’ anti-regime activities],” said a human-rights activist who asked not to be named.
The regime also arrested a mother of twins, one of whom was shot dead by junta security forces in February, at her house in Yangon on Sept. 1. Nyi Nyi Aung Htet Naing, 23, was fatally shot while participating in a protest against the regime in Yangon’s Hledan on Feb. 28.
Junta troops detained their mother as they could not find Ko Ko Aung Htet Naing, the twin brother of the victim.
A total of 1,058 people including children have been killed by the junta since the coup, according to the AAPP, while 6,343 remain in detention and 1,984 people are wanted on arrest warrants.
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