Weeks of ‘hell’
Stopping the junta’s violence
A five-part video documentary by AJAR and its partners on torture in Burma
International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
The Burma Military’s use of torture is an international crime – it must be stopped!
26th June 2021
On this International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, we call for an immediate end to the brutal torture of civilians in Burma, and for perpetrators to be brought to justice.
To mark this important day, we created a video series called “Stop Torture”, showing how the Burma military is using various forms of torture against its own people following the 1 February coup. The video links are available on AJAR’s YouTube channel (click here) and on the website/Facebook pages of AAPP, ND-Burma and Women’s League of Burma.
The post-coup repression shows how the Burma military will not shy away from using its decades-old patterns of cruel treatment of civilians in a widespread manner, as a mean to terrorize and subjugate the population into obedience.
While people all over the country continue to defy the military junta through courageous acts of resistance, mostly peacefully, security forces respond with ruthless and nasty force. At least 880 people, including children and youth, have been killed by security forces since the coup. Almost 6,300 have been arrested, with 5,104 currently in detention as of June 24th, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). The crackdown targets any perceived opponent to the coup, including politicians, peaceful protesters, journalists, celebrities, striking workers, and even children and bystanders. Many of those arrested are subject to various forms of torture and ill treatment.
There are reports of widespread and systematic mistreatment in detention, including beatings, sleep deprivation, and being denied the use of a bathroom. During interrogation, detainees are being blindfolded with their hands tied behind them and forced to kneel on a concrete floor or to lie on their belly, and then beaten repeatedly with the goal to extract information or forced confessions. Some report being beaten with dangerous objects such as cables, the butts of guns, and glass bottles. Particularly concerning is the differential treatment of women during interrogation and detention, in the form of sexual and gender-based violence, sexism and misogyny. There are reports of sexual abuses behind bars, including beatings on genitals and sexual threats.
Some detainees do not survive. Civilians arrested after being shot by security forces are often denied medical treatment and subsequently die from their injuries. There are reports of people tortured to deaths in custody, their bodies returned to their families with a fabricated story as to the cause of death, but with obvious signs of torture and mutilation. Some bear the marks of organs removal. Others are returned to their families alive, only to die a few hours later from their injuries. The AAPP has accounted for at least 24 of such deaths following torture.
These vicious tactics employed by the Burma military are meant to install fear among the public and create an environment of terror, in order to suppress popular resistance to the coup and maintain their control over the country. The use of torture, however, is not new to the recent political developments. As long documented by civil society groups, torture has always been commonplace during interrogation and imprisonment in Burma. This included also mistreatment of LGBTIQ people in police detention. In ethnic areas, torture and other forms of ill-treatment were used against civilians to obtain information or confessions regarding the activities of ethnic armed organizations, or as punishment for perceived sympathy for the Tatmadaw’s opponents.
In its reports to the United Nations, the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (“FFM”) concluded that “the manner in which torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence, occurred often indicated the dehumanisation of ethnic minorities in Kachin and Shan States, with Tatmadaw soldiers verbally denigrating their religions and ethnicities”. Indeed, the FFM found that the targeting of civilians, including through torture and ill-treatment, was a hallmark of Tatmadaw operations in at least Rakhine, Kachin and Northern Shan States.
Torture has profound, long-lasting consequences for survivors and their families. While they struggle with physical injuries, psychological trauma, social exclusion and economic hardships, access to basic support services is largely lacking in Burma, in particular in the current context. Torture survivors and their families require access to health and medical care, psycho-social support, legal assistance and livelihood opportunities. Plans need to be made to address their immediate as well as long-term needs, which should also include acknowledgement of survivors’ experience and efforts to ensure non-repetition.
The use of torture by security forces is a violation of international law, as well as Myanmar domestic laws. In some circumstances, torture can be considered a crime against humanity when it is part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population. As we have repeatedly stated in the past, decades of impunity have emboldened the Burma military to continue perpetrating these heinous crimes without any accountability. This must stop. The time for justice has come. The Burma military must immediately end violence against civilians and bring perpetrators of torture to justice.
We therefore make the following recommendations:
To the international community:
- Do not recognize the junta’s State Administration Council (SAC) and put pressure on the Burma military to immediately end violence against civilians and respect the Geneva Conventions
- Make a referral of the Burma situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC)
- Strengthen the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM)
- Establish a coordinated arms embargo against Myanmar
- Issue further targeted sanctions against the Burma military’s businesses
- Participate in providing acknowledgment and recognition to victims of torture
- Support victims of torture and their families, including human rights defenders, through programs aimed at providing material, medical and psycho-social assistance, in order to address both immediate and long-term needs
- Provide cross-border humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by the violence
To the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN):
- Issue a timeframe for the implementation of its “five-point consensus” on Burma and hold the Burma military accountable to it in an effective and transparent manner
- Call for the immediate release of political prisoners
- Support the establishment of an arms embargo by the international community
To the National Unity Government (NUG):
- Document the use of torture by security forces
- Cooperate with the IIMM
- Commit to bringing perpetrators to justice, including by acceding to the ICC Rome Statute and making a declaration accepting ICC jurisdiction for past crimes
- Commit to signing and ratifying the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT)
- Commit to preventing torture by providing awareness trainings to security forces under NUG’s authority
- Commit to establishing meaningful transitional justice mechanisms to address victim’s rights to truth and reparations, in particular rehabilitation programs for survivors
- Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR)
- Women’s League of Burma (WLB)
- Network for Human Rights Documentation Burma (ND-Burma)
- Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)
- All Arakan Student’s and Youth Congress (AASYC)
- Ta’ang Civil Society Organization (TCSO)
- Burma Civil War Museum (BCM)
- Union Of Karenni State Youth (UKSY)
Four protesters and at least two officers were killed as Myanmar soldiers battled an anti-junta civilian militia with small arms and grenades in the country’s second city Tuesday, authorities and military sources said.
Fighting has flared across Myanmar since the February coup as people form “defence forces” to battle a brutal military crackdown on dissent, but clashes have largely been restricted to rural areas.
Acting on a tip-off, security forces raided a house in Mandalay’s Chan Mya Tharsi township on Tuesday morning, the junta’s information team said in a statement, and were met with small arms fire and grenades.
Two officers were killed during the raid, military sources told AFP, and at least ten were wounded.
Four “terrorists” were killed and eight arrested in possession of homemade mines, hand grenades and small arms, a junta spokesman said in a statement.
“We could hear artillery shooting even though our house is far from that place,” a Mandalay resident told AFP.
Another four members of the self-defence group were killed when the car they were attempting to flee in crashed, the spokesman said, without providing details.
The United States’ embassy in Yangon said on Twitter it was “tracking reports of ongoing fighting in Mandalay… We are disturbed by the military escalation and urgently call for a cessation of violence.”
The mass uprising against the military putsch that toppled the government of Aung San Suu Kyi has been met with a brutal crackdown that has killed more than 870 civilians, according to a local monitoring group.
As well as the rise of local self-defence forces, analysts believe hundreds of anti-coup protesters from Myanmar’s towns and cities have trekked into insurgent-held areas to receive military training.
But part-time fighters know the odds are stacked against them in any confrontation with Myanmar’s military — one of Southeast Asia’s most battle-hardened and brutal.
Former student activist Kyaw San Oo was shot in the head at close range when he wasn’t able to flee police following a shootout
A leader of a resistance group based in Magwe Region’s Gangaw Township was killed during a clash with regime forces on Sunday, according to family members.
Kyaw San Oo, a 24-year-old former member of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), was shot dead during the clash near the village of Bawpyin in Gangaw.
“We were told that he was fatally shot in the head after getting injured in the thigh. When he was no longer able to run due to his injury, a member of the regime’s police force shot him in the temple at close range,” said a relative of Kyaw San Oo.
Regime forces attacked the Gangaw People’s Defence Force (PDF) after their location was revealed by an informant. Two PDF fighters, including Kyaw San Oo, and two regime troops were killed in the shootout, according to Gangaw locals.
Regime police took the body of Kyaw San Oo after the clash and told his family on Monday afternoon to retrieve it from the Gangaw Hospital, the relative said.
“We had to go get his body right away and had it cremated at around 4pm at a village cemetery,” he added.
Further information about the other person killed in the clash was not available at the time of reporting.
Executing an injured enemy at close range violates the code of conduct for soldiers, said army defector Tun Myat Aung, who was a captain before leaving the military.
“We can’t kill prisoners of war and detainees. It’s part of the code of ethics for soldiers regarding treatment of their enemies,” he said.
The regime has not released a statement regarding the clash or the death of Kyaw San Oo.
Kyaw San Oo was an active member of the Pakokku University Student Union and participated in the ABFSU’s activities from 2012 to 2019, said Min Htet Myat, who is also a student activist from Meikhtila.
“He regularly led the organisation’s activities. He did many things for the Gangaw region even after he finished university,” Min Htet Myat told Myanmar Now.
“It is such a great loss of a comrade and a good friend. I am really sorry that he died halfway through the journey, even though he could do so much more,” he added.
Kyaw San Oo’s family said they were proud of him and his firm political stance.
“We wish 10 more people like him could emerge even though he was killed,” said one relative.
According to a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 875 people have been killed by regime forces since the military seized power in a coup on February 1.
The vast majority have been unarmed protesters and bystanders killed in crackdowns and raids.
By THE IRRAWADDY 22 June 2021
A Mandalay civilian resistance group fighting against the military regime said two of its members were killed and six arrested by junta troops following a raid on one of the group’s bases on Tuesday morning.
Fighting broke out between the People’s Defense Force Mandalay (Mdy PDF) and the troops during the raid in the city’s Chanmyathazi Township.
On Tuesday afternoon, military-run Myawady TV said eight PDF fighters were killed and eight arrested during the shootout, while some junta troops were seriously injured.
However, the person in charge of the Mandalay PDF’s urban guerrilla warfare unit, who uses the pseudonym Bo Tun Tauk Naing, told The Irrawaddy that only two resistance fighters were killed.
“Among the six arrested are civil servants on strike and students. Some weapons were also seized,” he said.
Junta troops reportedly raided a boarding school where PDF fighters were based in Hton Tone ward at around 7.30 a.m.
“They sniffed us out. They came to our base at between 111st and 112nd streets on 54th Street and we shot at them as they came,” Bo Tun Tauk Naing said.
PDF fighters attempted to withdraw from the base as their colleagues from other parts of the town rushed to rescue them.
Junta forces used grenades in the fighting, the PDF said. Junta troops also used snipers and armored vehicles in the clash.
“Junta troops arrived around 7 a.m. and opened fire at 111st and 54th streets. It was not heavy shooting. Then there was an exchange of fire between 8 a.m. and 8.30 a.m. So far, junta troops have not yet raided houses. But they are detaining every man on sight,” a resident of Hton Tone Ward said in the morning while the clash was still going on.
He said he heard the sounds of machine guns and grenades. Locals stayed indoors during the shootout, he said.
Following the fighting, the US and Canadian embassies in Yangon on Tuesday called for a cessation of violence and for the protection of civilians, saying they were disturbed and concerned by the fighting in Mandalay.
The Mandalay PDF was formed by local resistance fighters who underwent military training provided by ethnic armed groups. They operate under the parallel National Unity Government.
The story was updated on Tuesday afternoon to reflect the latest situation.