The members of the military council beat her and asked questions regarding the People’s Defense Forces (PDF). Ma Saw Han Nwe Oo screamed loudly as she was repeatedly abused by obscene words and her body was touched.
“I was more in pain than I was in shame or fear. And I cried when I was in pain. I didn’t care if I died. But I did not confess to them. I had pained the whole body but I could not even cry.” said, Ma Saw Han New Oo.
Ma Saw Han Nwe Oo is an LGBTIQ living in Mandalay. Ma Saw Han Nwe Oo, a writer and LGBTIQ activist, has been involved in the anti-dictatorship movement. She attended military training and she supported the PDF. She was arrested at her home in Mandalay on the morning of September 6, 2021 on charges of supporting PDFs.
Ma Saw Han Nwe Oo was interrogated at the royal court in Mandalay. Members of the military not only beat her physically, but they also forcibly examined her body. She was also subjected to ridicule and sexual harassment. She claims they tortured her in various ways such as pouring hot water on her body and exposing themselves to her and showing her their genitals.
“These are very embarrassing things. I was silent as I was in pain when I faced these things. When the members of the junta showed their genitals, they asked me “Do you like it? You do, right?” and “You will not deny because you are sissy”.
While at the interrogation center and at the police station, the members of junta used the derogatory word “A Chauk(salang word for homosexual person)”. They cracked her finger nails and toe nails. She was beaten with wire cords and had hot water on her. Members of the military tortured her in various terrible ways, including spraying her injuries with alcohol.
Since the military coup on February 1, LGBTIQs took part in anti-dictatorship movement and the peaceful revolution in various ways. LGBTIQs took part in massive protests and strikes in order to draw attention to the revolution.
In addition, LGBTIQ people are also involved in armed revolution and are attending the military training in liberated areas to be able to fight against the military dictatorship.
As a consequence, LGBTIQs have been subjected to various forms of torture, sexual harassment, and intimidation by members of the military junta. They are facing a serious affront to their sexual and gender identities.
The Ministry of Human Rights and Ministry of Women, Youths and Children Affairs of The National Unity Government’s released joined report in June, providing evidence that the military has committed persecution, torture, arrest and killing of at least 12 LGBTIQs from Myitkyina, Myingyan, Monywa, Mandalay, Mawlamyine, Rangoon and Kyauk Padaung.
Among the 73 LGBTIQ detainees in prisons and police stations, 65 remain in custody. Another 28 members of the LGBTIQ community are hiding which was pointed in the report. Despite these risks, LGBTIQ people continue to participate in the revolution to fight against the dictatorship.
“During the interrogation, the members of junta looked inner of the body to see if I had undergone surgery or not and I felt so ashamed as they used abusive words for transgender people”, said by Ma Saw Han New Oo.
“Arrested LGBTIQ are physical and sexual abused” said, U Aung Myo Min, the Minister of Human Rights.
Human rights abuses have been committed by the military council since the coup. The torture of detainees is also a violation of human rights.
“Human rights convention prohibit torture. Arresting today and sending the dead body the next day to extrajudicial killing. They do not respect the basic rights of LGBTIQ+ people” said, U Aung Myo Min.
After the coup, LGBTIQs also joined the protests like other people. There have also been arrests and violent torture of LGBTIQ people as a result of participation in such activities. U Aung Myo Min continues stated that LGBTIQ people were tortured and humiliated more than others.
U Aung Myo Min said, “In our society, there are stereotypes that make people to believe that they can treat LGBTIQ people on the way of they want when they detain and arrest members of the LGBTIQ communities. With this mind, they have been committing the torture of LGBTQ people based on hatefulness like questioning “Why are these people involved in this fight?”
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations, “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law, no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishmentt, no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, Article 10 states that everyone has the same right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial court. However, the current situation in Burma is the opposite of UDHR.
Ma Saw Han Nwe Oo was charged under Section 505 (a) after being interrogated and beaten at the police station. After spending two weeks in the police station, she was sent to Obo Prison. Although she was no longer tortured like in the interrogation like in the police station, as she is LGBTIQ, she was confronted with the same hardships.
There is a separate LGBT dormitory for those who have been sentenced by the court but she was placed to share the space with men in the prison and this made very inconvenience for a Transgender.
“I was forced to wear a men’s longyi. It was difficult for me as I was unable to wear female’s clothes. And I also had a hard time when I took a bath as a transgender woman” said, Ma Saw Han New Oo.
But she said she was able to be content with the faith thinking her gender identity does not depend on clothes. While she openly told other prisoners that she lives like a woman the situation became welcomed, as the other’s prisoners were arrested for their political activities and they are open minded on her.
“One thing weighed on my mind… if we were to suffer like this, how would women prisoners have to suffer and what would happen to the other girls. And I am still very worried about it,” said Saw Han Nwe Oo.
LGBTIQ members released from prisons say that LGBTIQ members are being tortured more severely than men and women because the members of junta see LGBTIQ are not truly belong to male or female.
Han Zin Htoo, an LGBT person living in Bago Region, relays that “LGBTIQ people are more persecuted because of being LGBTIQ people. We are ridiculed and insulted for presenting as women. The military says that “sissies” should not be involved in politics. And the soldiers expose their genitals to me and said “you guys only deserve it.”
Ko Han Zin Htoo was arrested by the members of military junta in April while he was staying at a friend’s house in a small town of Bago Region. There was a girl living in the house was taking pictures of where the military council troops were based. Because of this act, she was arrested along with Ko Han Zin Htoo. His friend was also taken away from the house in connection with that girl.
Soldiers beat all three detainees seriously. They knew that Han Zin Htoo and his friend were gay. That is why they made derogatory comments and and committed sexually explicit acts on Han Zin Htoo and his friend.
“I was handcuffed and beaten with a rubber stick. Two soldiers hit me from the buttocks to the ankles. I could not even walk and could not move,” Han Zin Htoo recounted his experiences during the interrogation.
The military council members asked Han Zin Htoo to provide the name lists of the protesters in the township where he was staying. He was beaten more when he did not reveal them.
Ko Han Zin Htoo was beaten and tortured at the police station for an entire day. Then, he was sent to prison. He was put in a ward for male prisoners despite the risk for harassment based on his sexuality. He was subjected to ridicule and harassment from the prison guards.
He was released after more than a month in prison, but his pain still remains as a nightmare.
The beatings during the interrogation left bruises on his body and he is still on medication for his injuries. He also said that he was suffering from psychological trauma.
“I used to hate them [members of the military]. But now when I saw them in uniform, I was too scared to cross near them. I am really scared of them even if they don’t do anything to me. I worry that they will call out to me or torture me or arrest me” said, Han Zin Htoo.
Ma Saw Han Nwe Oo and Ko Han Zin Htoo are not the only LGBTIQs who have had bad experiences in such interrogations. People who are not confident and do not openly identify themselves as LGBTIQ have also had similar experiences. Despite being severely persecuted, they are unable to share their experiences.
“Some people revealed their experience to us but some of them did not share. Some of them may be young and they may worry to share as the stories would remain a bad image for the rest of their life,” explained Shar, a leading LGBT protest activist in Rangoon.
In last November, one of the LGBTIQ members in Monywa was arrested. She was beaten, humiliated and posted her naked pictures social media account. That young lady who is around 20 years old is a transgender woman.
“Ma Khin Khin(not her real name), a transgender woman, and her husband were arrested at their home in the second week of November by members of the military council and beaten and interrogated” said, a LGBT protest leader, Myint Myat in Monywa.
She was stripped almost completely naked. With only something covering her genitals, she was beaten and humiliated. Her naked pictures were posted on her account. ” That was intentional act against her” said Myint Myat.
That transgender woman was arrested on charges of providing support to PDFs. Her husband was released later on the evening of the arrest but Ma Khin Khin remained in custody.
U Aung Myo Min mentioned that in the past, LGBTIQs were involved in revolutions but there was the perception that they were less courageous and less involved. This may be because LGBTIQ people were not really acceptable at that time. Even in normal times, LGBTIQ are familiar with abuses by the authorities. In the past revolutions, interrogations and prisons may have resulted in torture and mistreatment, but LGBTIQ have already experienced this under the justice systems used of the penal code to criminalize them, and exploitative use of the so-called “darkness law” and the prostitution law.
“LGBT sexuality is not something that can be measured by a thermometer like COVID. There were some LGBTIQ people who were involved in politics but the participation of LGBTIQ people was not as open like the current situation but the participation would happen in the past. People not really known as the stories were not significant came out in the past, but it is likely,” he explained.
Due to the weak of rule of law in Burma, the situation of violence against toward LGBTIQ needs to be addressed with the help of the international community. These committed crimes and incidents are collected by the related ministry of NUG who should make a report regarding these crimes.
These reports were discussed with international diplomats, including the United Nations Human Rights Council and th UN Special Rapporteur on Burma. The reports are also sent out to the UN special envoys for LGBT said, the Minister of Human Rights.
Militaries dictatorships often torture detainees during interrogations. Former police chief, Moe Yan Naing, remarked that such kind of torture were not only practiced to LGBTIQs, but also men and women of all ages facing the such experiences. For the LGBTIQ, they are facing further harmed and losing human dignity.
He continues such kind of torture were illegal and violated Article 44 of the country’s Penal Code. Section 44 of the Penal Code mentioned “Nobody should harm the physicality of civilians, mentality of civilians and dignity of civilians”.
“It is illegal to persecute either LGBT people or anyone. We can be saying the military dictatorship itself is violating the laws,” he repeated.
Since the past, LGBT people have been ridiculed by society. Thus, it would be appropriate, given the current state of serious persecution and lawlessness, enact a law to protect LGBT people when a federal democracy emerges said, the former police chief.
There are a lot of stories of ridicule and persecution of LGBTIQs, as well as targeted persecution by some authorities. When LGBTIQs go out at night, they can be arbitrarily arrested under Police Act 30D/ 35 D and they sometimes arrest for prostitution without any evidence and then extorted. According to LGBTIQs, sexual harassment by authorities is a regular occurrence.
These conditions have been happening over many years but things were improving over the last five years as people had the space to call for LGBTIQ’ rights. However, the LGBTIQs are now fighting the dictatorship again in this revolution because they do not want to repeat the worst situation taken place like the previous.
Myint Myat, the leader of the Monywa LGBT’s boycott group said “I do not dare to think about how we are going to move on if we cannot made to release under the militaryy shoes, especially if all the rights of minorities are lost.”
The military junta is still cracking down on protesters, but LGBTIQ people are still keep participating in the strikes with making the slogans such as “We are not afraid to die”. They have been doing the gorilla strikes with a great momentum in Rangoon and other cities.
“People normally see LGBTIQ people with fear. In more frank words, people fear gay people. But being gay is not actually associated with fear, so we will continue to fight the dictator with our comrades until the last street protest,” Myint Myat said.
The torture during interrogation, which has been described as the hell on earth, was so brutal that some people could not survive with it and died. Ma Saw Han Nwe Oo said, she had suffered badly but she had to overcome with a strong sense of revolution.
Ma Saw Han Nwe Oo strongly mentioned, it is absolutely impossible to step back. I will move forward. If I can get one leg space, I will use that space. If I can get one arm space, I will use that space. I will keep moving and standing with everyone in the country”.