Despite Releases, Manhunts, Arbitrary Detentions and Torture Continue

July 9th, 2021  •  Author: Progressive Voice  •  10 minute read
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“This illegitimate junta is not making positive changes, they are only trying to make the case to be given credentials at the UN in September.”

Ko Tate, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

A release of innocent people from Myanmar’s prisons, said by junta-run media as over 2,000, while good news for those now free and their families, speaks more of the violence, torture, and depravation of liberty than any act of good faith by the junta. Furthermore, the actual number of those released has not been independently verified, and is possibly less than 1,000, while some released were not part of the Spring Revolution. Accounts of inhumane treatment, including sexual and gender-based violence and the detention of children, are revealed by those released, and many more, including strike leaders who remain in prison for opposing the illegitimate coup attempt by the Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing’s terrorist military.

Since the 1 February attempted coup, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has documented the arrest of nearly 6,500 innocent people, and the deaths of nearly 900, while there are believed to be many more deaths and arrests, especially in ethnic areas. When junta troops come looking for activists, strikes leaders, and members of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), if they cannot find them they take family members hostage, detaining them and torturing them. Documented cases of elders being beaten and children of their targets being detained speaks to the cruelty of this regime.

When they do take people away, accounts of torture in prison are commonplace. On International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Myanmar and regional human rights organizations released a statement and video that details the different types of torture used against prisoners and calls for an end to these inhumane practices. Examples include beatings, sometimes with dangerous objects such as glass or rifle butts, denial of medical treatment to those shot and wounded, sleep deprivation and being denied the use of the bathroom. Sometimes bodies of tortured detainees are returned to their families, displaying obvious signs of inhumane treatment, including with organs removed, with insulting excuses given by the junta for their death.

One account of torture was given by co-founder and Editor-in-chief of Kamayut Media, Nathan Maung, upon his release and deportation back to the US. He described to local US media outlet, CNN, the beatings and sleep deprivation he was subjected to, as soldiers tried to find out the contact details of activists and opposition leaders. While he believes he was released because of his American citizenship, his colleague and other co-founder of Kamayut Media, Hanthar Nyein, remains in prison. Nathan detailed how, as well as the beatings, sleep deprivation and cigarette burns inflicted on Hanthar Nyein, soldiers threatened to rape him to pressure him to reveal his phone password so as to get information and crack down on activists and members of the people’s movement.

The use of sexual and gender-based violence is institutionalized within the Myanmar military as a tool of control and a weapon of war in their retaliation campaigns against those who oppose their power. This has been attested to by documentation of rape and sexual violence used against ethnic women during their military offensives against ethnic revolutionary armies for decades and is continuing today, such as the rape of a 14-year-old nun in Kutkai, Shan State, by a junta soldier. Impunity for such crimes is entrenched, and facilitates a culture by which it is institutionalized within the armed forces.

The threat of rape of Hanthar Nyein then, is not surprising, and sexual violence committed against detainees has been well documented. Members of the LGBTIQ community are also singled out by the junta, and suffer sexual violence because of their gender identity or sexuality, such as transgender women being forced to wear men’s clothes and locked up in men’s prison wards. A report released by the National Unity Government’s Ministries of Human Rights and Women, Youths and Children Affairs, reports that 73 LGBTIQ community members have been arrested, and details their treatment and torture in prison such as one transgender woman having bottle inserted in her anus. As NUG Minister for Human Rights, U Aung Myo Min, stated, “LGBT people are being specially targeted for persecution, and are being humiliated and treated even more inhumanely [than others] because of prejudice against them, and because the military thinks it can do whatever it likes.”

The psychological scars of torture and imprisonment may induce  trauma for many years for those detained. This is especially so with the children that the junta arrests. For example, the young girl from Mogok, who was detained in June for two weeks with her mother and sister after the junta could not find her father. She turned five years old in prison. Her sister and mother remain in prison while her sister is seriously ill. There have been at least 73 child fatalities since the coup, victims of violent crackdowns on protests, murdered in their homes, or caught in the crossfire as the junta shot randomly at protesters.

Hence while the junta’s release of prisoners is a relief for those victims, it should not detract from the nationwide terror campaign, brutality, the ongoing manhunt and arrests, and the torture of people who have been defiant against them. Quite simply they should not have been arrested in the first place. All those 5,000 and over remaining in prison must be released immediately and unconditionally while the manhunts that go on day and night must stop. The tragedy of these imprisonments is exemplified by the death of the father of one of the political prisoners while he was waiting for his daughter to be released, which she sadly wasn’t.

The history of releases of political prisoners in Myanmar usually coincides with upcoming international platforms and forums where international policy on Myanmar is considered. This was not lost on the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an organization which documents the numbers of those arrested, released, and killed by the junta, and has done for over 20 years. As AAPP secretary Ko Tate said, “This illegitimate junta is not making positive changes, they are only trying to make the case to be given credentials at the UN in September.”

Cynical releases must not be given any credence from the international community that the junta is compromising or willing to give up power or stop its war against the people. As a slogan on a protest sign from a monk deftly articulates “though we are happy for those released, we must not forget that the whole country itself still remains as a prison.” Rather, steps must be taken to ensure the military junta be held accountable for the crimes against humanity and war crimes it is committing, including indiscriminate and mass killings, use of torture, sexual violence and imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty. The UN Security Council must therefore refer the Myanmar situation to the International Criminal Court, and the international community must exert as much pressure on the regime as possible by imposing economic sanctions on the military, military businesses and related business partners, and coordinate a global arms embargo. By taking such measures, they help the Spring Revolution achieve its goals to end military rule, establish a federal democracy, and end the bloodshed.

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[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.


Resources from the past week

actions

Statements and Press Releases

Threats and Intimidation Towards Lawyers

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

Press Statement on Prison Releases

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

မြန်မာနိုင်ငံဆေးပညာရှင်များအသင်း ဒဿမအကြိမ်ညီလာခံ ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေငြာချက်

By Burma Medical Association

Chinland Defense Force ၏ သတိပေးထုတ်ပြန်ချက်၊ ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် ၆/၂၀၂၁

By Chinland Defense Force

Chinland Defense Force ၏ သတိပေးထုတ်ပြန်ချက်၊ ကြေငြာချက်အမှတ် (၇/၂၀၂၁)

By Chinland Defense Force

Chin National Organization ၏ တိုက်ပွဲသတင်းထုတ်ပြန်ခြင်း

By Chin National Organization

Today, the Embassy of Canada recognizes Canada Day, and the seven-year anniversary of Canada’s diplomatic presence in Myanmar

By Embassy of Canada to Myanmar

Myanmar: Security Forces Arrest Defense Lawyers

By Human Rights Watch

Republic of the Union of Myanmar National Unity Government Weekly Press Release (6/2021)

By National Unity Government

Joint Statement in Celebration of the Pride Month

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights and Ministry of Women, Youths and Children Affairs)

H.E. Dr. Sasa, Union Minister of the Ministry of International Cooperation and spokesperson of the National Unity Government of Myanmar, Former Myanmar Special Envoy to the UN Addressed to the Parliamentarians of the European Union

By National Unity Government (Ministry of International Cooperation Myanmar)

H.E. Dr. Sasa’s Address to the International Media

By National Unity Government (Ministry of International Cooperation Myanmar)

H.E. Dr. Sasa Addressed to the Foreign Affairs Committee of Defenses and Armed Force of the Senate, the Parliament of France

By National Unity Government (Ministry of International Cooperation Myanmar)

ပြည်ထောင်စုသမ္မတမြန်မာနိုင်ငံတော် အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ ပညာရေးဝန်ကြီးဌာန ကြေညာချက်အမှတ်(၂၂/၂၀၂၁)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Education)

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ လူသားချင်းစာနာထောက်ထားရေးနှင့် ဘေးအန္တရာယ်ဆိုင်ရာစီမံခန့်ခွဲရေးဝန်ကြီးဌာန အမိန့်ကြော်ငြာစာအမှတ် ၀၁/၂၀၂၁

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management)

Remarks by Ms. Alice Wairimu Nderitu Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide

By Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect

ပြည်သူ့ကာကွယ်ရေးတပ်ဖွဲ့ (ကနီမြို့နယ်) မိဘပြည်သူများသို့ အသိပေးကြေညာခြင်း ကြေညာချက် အမှတ် (၈/၂၀၂၁)

By People Defense Force (Kani)

တန့်ဆည်မြို့နယ်ပြည်သူ့ကာကွယ်ရေးတပ်ဖွဲ့ ဘေးအန္တရာယ်တုံ့ပြန်ဆောင်ရွက်နိုင်ရန်အတွက် ကြိုတင်ပြင်ဆင်ထားရှိပါရန်တိုက်တွန်းခြင်း ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် ၅/၂၀၂၁

By People Defense Force (Taze)

Cut the Impunity: The International Community Must Act Now

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Treasury Sanctions Senior Officials and Family Members Connected to Burma’s Military

By United States Department of the Treasury

reports

Reports

Burma Coup Watch for Month of June 2021: Junta worsens threats caused by conflict and COVID-19

By ALTSEAN-BURMA , Burma Human Rights Network, Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK,  Initiatives for International Dialogue, International Federation for Human Rights, Progressive Voice, US Campaign for Burma and Women Peace Network

Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar – Bulletin Issue 4, July 2021

By Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar

Burma/Myanmar’s military junta cripples economy

By IFI Watch Myanmar, ALTSEAN Burma and RECOURSE

“Situation Report of the LGBTIQs after the Military Coup in Myanmar” by Ministry of Human Rights and Ministry of Women, Youths and Children Affairs National Unity Government of Myanmar

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights and Ministry of Women, Youths and Children Affairs)

Myanmar Emergency Update (as of 01 July 2021)

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

UNICEF Myanmar Humanitarian Situation Report No. 4: 29 May to 28 June 2021

By UNICEF Myanmar


Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”

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