(Ann, Rakhine State – 16th Jan 2020)
On the 14th Jan 2020, a Chin woman was hospitalized after she was tortured while being held in custody by Tatmadaw troops operating under the Western Command based in Ann Town, Rakhine State. She was arrested on suspicion that her husband, 51-year-old, U Tin Htun, had been in contact with members of the Arakan Army (AA).
Daw Ma Hla (44) and her son Maung Kyaw (21), were both arrested after a search of their home had taken place in order to look for the husband who was away travelling on the day in question. Daw Ma Hla and Maung Kyaw are residents of Kha Maung Taw village, some 16 miles away from Ann Town. After being arrested they were taken to the local school building in the village, where they were both confined and tortured, using different methods:
“The soldiers are from Ann Town, belonging to the Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 371 or 372. They came to look for the husband early in the morning but left as he was away travelling. They came back at around 10:00 am and arrested the wife and son and took them both to the village school building where they were held. They started interrogating them at around 3:00 p.m. in the afternoon, asking them where the husband is and where they had hidden guns. As they were asking these questions, the soldiers cut off the flesh from Daw Ma Hla’s right leg, hit both her kneecaps with a hammer and poured boiling water onto her lower thigh. This all happened inside a classroom,” described one source who agreed to speak to CHRO.
The next day on 15th Jan, the soldiers took Daw Ma Hla to a nearby house where they left her and then left for Ann Town. Her 21-year old son was taken along with them. The owner of the house then took the victim to Ann Civil Hospital for treatment of the wounds sustained during the torture. The son, who was not as severely tortured as her mother, was transferred to Ann Police Station, where he has been remanded in custody for another day before he will be formally charged.
During the interrogation, the troops asserted that they had found 8 fuses used for triggering landmines during their search of the house. This is disputed by Daw Ma Hla, who claims that the family is only engaged in reputable business, selling groceries and assorted goods in a shop and that her husband sometimes sells timber to local people.
According to sources, after the soldiers had completed the house search, 1.8 million MMK (Approx. 1200 USD) and two gold bangles were missing. The soldiers also tried to take a safe-box containing around 30,000 MMK (Approx. 20 USD) but gave it back when the younger daughter pleaded with them.
During the search the soldiers ransacked the house, causing widespread damage while also destroying shop products, worth over 3 million MMK (Approx.2000 USD). Later, it is reported that soldiers returned 80,000 MMK (Approx. 55 USD) and handed it over to the village elders claiming that it was all they took from the house during the search.
One village elder who spoke to CHRO regarding the case doubts that Da Ma Hla’s husband is connected to the AA, “U Tin Htun is getting old and it would be unimaginable that he would have worked for the AA. The family is making their living by selling assorted groceries and he occasionally engaged in selling wood for house-building. Because their shop is frequented by so many people, it would have been easy to accuse him of having contacts with the AA.”
U Tin Htun has avoided returning home after getting word of the news about his family’s arrest and that he is wanted by the Tatmadaw.
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