Was Min Min tortured to death for banging pots?

June 9th, 2021  •  Author:   Ko Min Min (Kale)  •  6 minute read
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People hold a banner during a protest against the military coup, in Yangon on February 10 (EPA-EFE)

The brutal murder of a motorcycle mechanic in Kalay has some suspecting that he was the victim of an irate pro-regime neighbour

By Myanmar Now

Min Min, a 39-year-old motorcycle mechanic with his own repair shop in Kalay, Sagaing Region, called his wife at around 8pm on May 24 to tell her that everything was fine.

Earlier that day, a group of about 50 soldiers and police had arrived at his house and began searching for something. When they couldn’t find whatever it was they were looking for, they told him he would have to come with them for questioning.

“They told his wife to not worry. They said he just had to answer a few questions and would soon be released,” a family member recalled.

When Min Min called that night, he told his wife that he was being questioned at a local interrogation camp about a recent explosion near Kalay’s Basic Education High School 6.

“His wife asked him if he was being tortured. He said no. He said he would be released shortly and told her not to worry,” the relative said.

Mourners attend the funeral of Min Min, a motorcycle mechanic who was tortured to death in military custody. (CJ)

The next morning, Min Min’s wife went to the camp with some food and clothing for her husband. A soldier in plainclothes accepted them.

Then, about an hour after returning home, she received the news that he was dead. His death, she was told when she went to collect the body at the 100-bed hospital next to the camp, was caused by “an underlying lung issue.”

Min Min suffered from peripheral neuropathy, a nerve condition most likely brought on by his diabetes, but was otherwise in good health.

A military officer apologized for Min Min’s death and offered 500,000 kyat ($300) as compensation, but no further explanation was forthcoming.

“We were angry when we went to get his body, but we couldn’t show it because we were worried that they would harm the family. So we just nodded our heads and left,” the relative said.

Min Min poses for a photograph with his two children (Supplied)

A battered body

When the family took Min Min’s body home and started cleaning it, they saw that it was covered with bruises and other signs of severe trauma.

“We saw bruises on his chest and about three more on his forehead, which we assume came from a blow with a gunstock. That part of his forehead was very mushy,’” said the relative.

There was also blood on his mouth and bruises from the back of his neck to his ankles. His hands looked like they had been cut with a knife and there were stab wounds made with some sort of pointed object, the relative added.

All of these injuries were inflicted while Min Min was in military custody, but his family knew there was nothing they could do about holding his torturers legally accountable.

Min Min was not the first person to die at the hands of the regime’s forces in Kalay, where brutal crackdowns on protests have prompted many civilians to arm themselves with traditional hunting rifles. But so far he is the first in the region to be tortured to death while undergoing interrogation.

Myanmar boy hits a pan to make noise as a symbol of resistance against the military coup at the downtown area in Yangon on February 5 (EPA-EFE)

People in Myanmar hit pots and pans together producing noise (that sound is believed to drive the evils away in Burmese tradition) at 8:00 PM local time as a symbol of resistance to the recent military coup.

It’s difficult to say why he was subjected to this ordeal. He was a supporter of the National League for Democracy, but not a member, and he was not involved in protests, according to his friends.

It seems, at least in the opinion of those who knew him, that he had simply crossed the wrong person.

“We assume that it was an informant. He didn’t get on well with his neighbour. Not for personal reasons, but because of politics. The neighbour is a well-known informant in the city,” one friend told Myanmar Now.

A letter of warning

Min Min had been making a living as a motorcycle mechanic for about 10 years. He moved his workshop to its current location near the Nan Kalein stream in Kalay’s Myothar ward a year or so ago.

Although he didn’t take part in the town’s anti-coup protests, he did show his defiance of the dictatorship in another way—by banging pots and pans every night at 8pm.

While this was a common practice in many parts of the country, it didn’t meet with everyone’s approval.

In late March, Min Min’s neighbour sent him a letter complaining about the “distressing” sound and warning him that he would be reported to the authorities if he continued.

It was unclear if the neighbour followed through on this threat, but it seems that Min Min took it seriously.

Soon after receiving the letter, he closed his shop for about a month. It was just three weeks before his death that he decided to reopen it so he could provide for his family.

Now that he is dead, his wife and two children will have to struggle to make ends meet. They have since moved to Tharsi, the village where he lies buried at the local cemetery.

Around a thousand people attended his funeral, which was held on May 27.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), 21 people have died from torture while in detention over the past four months.

The junta’s spokesperson could not be reached for comment on these deaths.

Burmese version

Original Post: Myanmar Now