A second year student at Burma’s renowned Defence Services Academy (DSA) in Mandalay Division’s Pyin Oo Lwin Township died on the evening of Oct. 7 after being punched and kicked by a final year student as punishment for failing to clean his dormitory, according to a post-mortem report.
Ko Zwe Marn Aung punched 18-year-old Ko Aung Nyi Nyi Zaw in the chest causing his heart to stop, said the older brother of the victim, quoting the post-mortem report.
“We were allowed to see Ko Aung Nyi Nyi Zaw’s body at the mortuary,” the brother, Ko Myat Thu Zaw, told The Irrawaddy. “We found scars left by the postmortem operation on his head, but we were not allowed to see the rest of his body. Authorities said he died because his heart stopped beating.”
Burma’s DSA is governed by a “senior-junior” system to establish a regimented hierarchy. Physical assaults by older students to maintain control and instill juniors with unquestioning obedience are widespread.
Aside from physical beatings, cadets are often forced to do pushups, frog jumps, handstands or other exercises as a form of punishment if they fail to follow orders to the satisfaction of seniors.
According to U Kyaw Swe, uncle of the dead cadet, Ko Zwe Marn Aung asked another boy to tell Ko Aung Nyi Nyi Zaw to clean his dormitory on the evening of Oct. 7, but that person forgot to tell him.
When the senior found that Ko Aung Nyi Nyi Zaw had not followed his orders, he punched and kicked him. The cadet lost consciousness and died on the spot, according to his uncle.
“His friends told me that Ko Zwe Marn Aung punched him asking him if he was guilty or not,” U Kyaw Swe told The Irrawaddy. “Ko Zwe Marn Aung said he was guilty, and the senior continued to punch him and force him do pushups. As the punching continued, Ko Aung Nyi Nyi Zaw was hit in the chest and killed accidentally.”
The pair, who were both members of the Bayintnaung Battalion, had no personal problems prior to the fatal beating, according to friends of Ko Aung Nyi Nyi Zaw. His family held his funeral in Pyin Oo Lwin on Oct. 9.
Ko Zwe Marn Aung is in detention at the academy and authorities said they will punish him in line with the law.
U Myat Thu Zaw said: “We were allowed to see Ko Zwe Marn Aung for a few minutes. He said he felt sorry for what happened, but did not say anything else. The authorities were beside us, so could not speak freely.”
Ko Aung Nyi Nyi Zaw’s family said they don’t want to see another incident like this in the future.
After a video of DSA students bullying juniors went viral on social media earlier this year, authorities imposed a ban on physical assaults and ordered cadets not to ask juniors to run errands or administer physical punishments after 10 p.m., but abuse continues to be part of the culture of DSA.
The DSA is just one of three military academies in Burma, and is generally regarded as the toughest. The other two—the Defence Services Medical Academy and the Defence Services Technological Academy—are also governed by the “senior-junior” system, but rely less on violence.
DSA cadets are divided into three battalions, each with 14 companies. The three battalions are named after Burma’s kings: Anawrahta, Bayintnaung and Aung Zeya.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko