(Irrawaddy) Released after being incarcerated for 16 days in Burma’s notorious Aung Thapyay interrogation center in Rangoon last month, Toe Aung decided to leave the country, fearing he would be rearrested.
The 45-year-old activist was arrested on Sept. 11 on charges of connections with the monks’ organizations that are allegedly organizing a political movement inside the country. During his 16 days in detention, he said he was beaten and tortured.
“I was taken from my hostel in Kamayut Township [in western Rangoon] and put in a cell. For the first two days, the officers deprived me of sleep and food,” said Toe Aung from a safe house in Mae Sot, a Thai border town.
“The police officers were very violent,” he said. “Worse, I had to survive without water for three days.
“Without food and water, I became more and more exhausted. They came to my cell and interrogated me, but if they thought I was lying, they beat me up.”
Toe Aung said he was arrested like a common criminal by several police officers and members of the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Association civic group.
It was not the first time this had happened. He previously served nine years in Insein and Mandalay prisons for his political activities with Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).
When it comes to the election planned for next year, Toe Aung said he disagrees with the idea that the NLD should participate.
“I support the Shwegondaing Declaration,” he said, referring to the announcement by the NLD in April that offered to establish a dialogue with the military junta and take part in the 2010 election on the condition the regime release all political prisoners, review the Constitution and establish a true democracy.
“Ordinary Burmese people are afraid to become involved in political activities such as protests because the military government oppresses the people,” Toe Aung said.
He said that about 20 political activists were being interrogated in the center while he was there. Among them, he met Nyi Nyi Aung, a Burmese-born US citizen, who was arrested on Sept. 3 at Yangon International Airport when his flight landed.
Toe Aung said Nyi Nyi Aung seemed to be suffering from physical and psychological trauma due to torture.
In late September, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), an exiled rights group, issued a press statement titled “Torture is State Policy in Burma.” The statement said, “Nyi Nyi Aung was taken to various different interrogation centers where he was kicked and beaten, deprived of food for seven days, and questioned throughout the night.”
“Even though Burmese domestic law and international law forbids torture, no officials are ever held to account for their actions,” Bo Kyi, joint-secretary of the AAPP, said in the statement. “There is no doubt about it: torture is state policy in Burma. We are deeply concerned for the safety of those activists recently arrested.”
Toe Aung also said that he met some monks in Aung Thaphay interrogation centre who had been arrested by Burmese intelligence on suspicion of planting bombs.
“It made me sad, because the authorities disrobed monks and beat them,” he said.