While hundreds of peaceful protesters have been shot dead on the streets by the regime’s forces, many have also been killed while in custody.
The exact number is unknown but the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which is tracking detentions and killings since the coup, has confirmed at least 21 deaths after bodies were returned to families bearing the marks of torture.
Among them were active members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), election officials, pro-democracy activists and young people.
Three NLD members tortured to death
The first NLD member to be killed in interrogation was U Khin Maung Latt, the party’s ward chairman in Pabedan Township, Yangon. The 58-year-old Muslim died after torture, hours after he was detained.
He was violently beaten and kicked before being dragged away from his home on March 6. The next morning his family was informed that he died after “fainting” and retrieved his body from Mingaladon military hospital. His head and back were badly wounded and it was covered in a bloody shroud.
U Khin Maung Latt actively campaigned for the NLD in Pabedan for the 2015 and 2020 general elections. He was known for working for residents’ social welfare.
A day after U Khin Maung Latt’s funeral, another NLD member Ko Zaw Myat Lynn, who was in charge of the Suu Vocational Institute in Shwe Pyi Thar Township, Yangon, was arrested at night. The following morning, his family was notified that he had died.
The prominent 46-year-old community leader, who had led anti-regime protests, was believed to have been tortured to death. Horrific photographs of his body support the allegation. His face was badly disfigured, his mouth was melted and the skin on his face was peeling off. His body was bruised. His widow, Ko Zaw Myat Lynn, said he suffered a large abdomen wound and his intestines had come out.
The military claimed Ko Zaw Myat Lynn fell 9 meters onto a steel pipe while climbing a fence behind his school in an attempt to escape. His widow says the fence is less than 2.5 meters high.
U Kyaw Kyaw, an executive member of the NLD’s branch in Zabuthiri Township, Naypyitaw, died on March 30 while under interrogation. He was detained on March 15.
His family was allowed to look at his corpse but could not take the body for a funeral. No explanation was given for his death.
Mother of three killed in detention
Daw Malar Win, 39, stepped out of her home when she heard gunfire in Pakokku Township, Magwe Region, on March 19. The security forces were firing on street protesters.
“She was just an onlooker. She didn’t run when soldiers stormed the street and was beaten. She was on her knees and pleaded with them not to arrest her,” a witness told The Irrawaddy. The mother of three was hit in her thigh, beaten and taken away. The next morning, her family was told to retrieve her body.
“There were bruises on her face. It’s evident that she was tortured,” said a student union member who helped the family retrieve the body.
Striking civil servant dies after brutal beatings
Ko Tun Htet Aung, a 24-year-old forestry worker, died of injuries sustained from torture and brutal beatings while detained in Monywa, Sagaing Region.
He was arrested on March 15 at a protest. He died from internal bleeding on the brain, less than 12 hours after he was released from detention.
Before he was released, regime forces held him at Monywa General Hospital but he was not given proper treatment, his family said. The family was denied contact, despite his mother begging to be allowed to call him.
The family said they were told Ko Tun Htet Aung was in a stable condition with only minor bruises. But when he was released, Ko Tun Htet Aung was unable to walk, his eyes were discolored and he was largely unconscious. The family took him to Mandalay hospital.
Before he died, Ko Tun Htet Aung murmured: “I must fight them, Brother. They are so violent.”
Three other civilians, Ko Kyaw Moe Khaing from South Dagon Township, Yangon, and Ko Aung Win Toe from Taunggyi and U Thein Lwin from Muse in Shan State were reported as tortured to death in March.
Ko Kyaw Moe Khaing, a 39-year-old private tutor, was dragged away after falling three floors. He died four days later. His family told the media that he was denied medical treatment and beaten repeatedly.
Ko Aung Win Toe was detained at a teashop with no reason given and died from torture under interrogation, the AAPP said.
U Thein Lwin, 43, was detained at a protest and his beaten body was returned to his family five days later.
By June 9, the death toll had reached 858, according to the AAPP. Among the dead are civilians who have not received medical treatment after being shot and detained by the regime forces.
Injured social worker dragged by motorbike
In a lethal attack on an anti-regime protest stronghold in Maggatic Road, Bago Region, on April 9, Ko Thiha, 32, was shot in the thigh while scaling a wall and detained, according to a witness.
The injured social worker was tied up and dragged by a motorbike. The following day, his body was found in a morgue with a bruised head. More than 80 civilians, including students, were killed by the regime that day.
Election officials die after torture
The military justified its February 1 coup with unfounded claims of voter fraud in last year’s general election, in which a clear majority of voters supported the NLD.
The Union Election Commission, which rejected the military’s fraud claims, was on the regime’s targeted list for arrests. The commission’s ousted chairman, U Hla Thein, was among those arrested shortly after the coup. Lower-level officials were also rounded up.
Khin Maung Kyi, 47, a village tract election sub-commission chair in Taungdwingyi, Magwe Region, went into hiding but was detained with five other villagers on May 19. They returned to tend their crops and informants allegedly alerted troops. After a few hours, Khin Maung Kyi was dead. The whereabouts of the other five are unknown.
His family said he had a broken jaw, arms and ribs and a stomach wound. He left three children.
Tin Maung San, the secretary of the election sub-commission in Pathein Township, Ayeyarwady Region, died after being summoned to the regional commission office. His wife was informed that he fell down the stairs and told to collect his body, which had head injuries and broken ribs.
Determined activists die in detention
Poet Khet Thi, who spoke out against the regime, is said to have been tortured to death in military custody overnight and his body was returned with its organs removed.
The 45-year-old was detained on May 8 along with his wife. He was taken to an army camp in Shwebo. His family was informed of his death the following morning. He died in transit to Monywa hospital with torture wounds, according to a relative.
The poet wrote the line: “They shoot in the head but they don’t know the revolution is in the heart.”
Ko Soe Moe Hlaing, also known as Ko Mae Gyi, a veteran pro-democracy activist, died while in military custody in Bago Region. He is the younger brother of the junta’s deputy home affairs minister and the chief of police.
The 53-year-old, who devoted his life to the democratic struggle since 1988, was arrested on May 22 in Zaung Tu village in Bago Region along with several villagers after an informant allegedly told troops about their whereabouts.
Witnesses saw the troops beating his head with rifle butts during his arrest. On May 24, his wife was informed by telephone that he was dead. The whereabouts of the detained villagers are still unknown.
His wife and friends believe he was tortured to death. The family was only allowed to see Ko Mae Gyi’s face while his body was in a coffin at Mingaladon military hospital in Yangon before his funeral.
He was married with five children.
Neighborhood watchmen tortured to death
Following the Feb. 1 coup, residents in several cities organized volunteer groups to protect their homes from nighttime raids. Neighborhood watchmen were targeted by the security forces.
Aung Kyaw and Tin Maung Myint from Thapyayaye village in Yinmabin Township, Sagaing Region, were detained on April 2 while guarding their village. Two days later they were found dead from torture, according to the AAPP.
Kyaw Lwin Htwe, 39, of Insein’s Aung San neighborhood, went missing overnight on April 12 after he approached a suspicious vehicle. According to witnesses, he was taken by junta troops to a high school where they were deployed. Later his body was found in a hospital.
Troops claimed Kyaw Lwin Htwe was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. His wife said she found cuts and abrasions on his body which would not normally be caused by a motorcycle accident. His eyes were badly bruised and there were bruises under his arm. His motorcycle was largely intact.
He had two daughters, aged 13 and six.
Man who put out fire died after torture
Ko Aung Paing Htwe, 30, was detained by junta forces while he was extinguishing a fire at a ward administration office in Taunggyi overnight on April 4. Two days later, his body was returned. His family was told his brain bled after a car crash in which his lung was punctured by the steering wheel.
There were signs of severe torture on his body, said ward residents. His head was cracked open, his face was covered in bruises, one of his ears had almost been cut off and there was a knife wound in his back. His chest had been stitched together.
Ko Aung Paing Htwe was one of at least four people detained by the regime forces after helping to extinguish the Nyaungphyu Sakhan ward fire.
Resistance fighter dies in detention
Zin Ko Tun, a resistance fighter in Myingyan Township, Mandalay Region, was tortured to death in regime custody after being shot and detained while defending Talokmyo village from a junta attack on May 12.
He only had a wounded elbow when he was taken away and the next morning his family said his body had been tortured.
A relative told the media that the young man’s body had wounds and burn marks, including several blisters on his arm, a wound on his chest and a tattoo of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions flag tattoo on his arm was burned off.
Zin Ko Tun was a member of the armed group and the Myingyan Technological College’s student union. He was a first-year IT student.
Numerous civilian deaths
Ye Min Tun, 32, from Kawthaung, Tanintharyi Region, died due to torture on April 5.
Ko Aung Myint Hlaing, a 32-year-old electrical engineer, was beaten to death by regime forces on May 4 night shortly after being detained for questioning in Bago Region’s Pyay Township.
The security forces, including plainclothes personnel, detained him on suspicion of involvement in a bomb blast at a military-owned bank despite not finding any evidence.
Witnesses alleged violent soldiers accused him of trying to waste their time when he said he and two other male residents knew nothing about the bomb.
Ko Aung Myint Hlaing called out to his mother that he was dying and asked for help, according to witnesses. The yelling soon stopped and residents were told to stay away or risk being shot.
The next day the family was only allowed to see his face for a few minutes inside a coffin at a military hospital. They were not allowed to take pictures.
“His face was badly bruised with wounds on his cheeks, throat and jaw. When I peeked at his chest, it had been stitched back together,” Ko Aung Myint Hlaing’s sister said. The regime claimed he died after jumping from a moving truck.
Ko Aung Myint Hlaing, also known as Ko Aung Khaing Myit, came back to his hometown Pyay to enter the Buddhist monkhood before Thingyan after his job in Yangon ended after the coup. His sister said he was undergoing a temporary ordination on the day a bank was bombed. The regime blamed Ko Aung Myint Hlaing.
Ko Min Min, 39, a motorcycle mechanic had not taken part in anti-regime protests, said his family. But after a bomb exploded at a high school in Kale, the security forces seized him from his workshop on May 24, saying they received reports that he threw the bomb.
“They said they would release him later,” said a relative.
The following day his family was told to collect his body. The military hospital said he died from lung problems while changing his clothes. Compensation of 500,000 kyats (US$300) was given to the family.
The family said the body was covered with bruises and his head and arms had been scratched with a knife.
His relatives blamed an alleged collaborator. A neighbor earlier sent a note complaining that the banging of pots and pans at Ko Min Min’s home in protest at the regime was too noisy.
Ko Kyaw Naing, 36, of Chaungma village in Kani Township, Sagaing Region, died after being detained along with another villager at a checkpoint on April 27. The reason for the detention is unknown. His family was seeking to bail him out only to be told of his death in custody.
His family and villagers said his bruised body showed signs of torture. “He was severely bruised on his chest, both shoulders, thigh and back. It seemed he was kicked,” a relative said.
His brother told The Irrawaddy: “I despise this injustice. We, the people, will keep fighting together until the military dictatorship is eradicated.”
In Yangon, Kyaw Kyaw, 42, of South Dagon Township, was detained on May 14. The family was given permission to bury his rotting body and had to sign a statement that he died from a medical condition, the AAPP said. The face and body were bruised with broken teeth, according to the AAPP.
A neighbor told The Irrawaddy that the regime monitored the funeral and pictures were forbidden.
Myo Zaw Zaw, a construction worker, died on June 3 due to torture after he was detained the previous day when he returned to Shwepyithar Township after working at the Mingaladon Military Hospital construction site, according to the AAPP.
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