In Myanmar, Reports of Torture, Mass Killings

In one case, villagers say soldiers rounded up 40 men and killed them
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2021 3:20 PM CST
In Myanmar, Reports of Torture, Mass Killings
The army moves in to disperse protesters during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar, on March 7, 2021.   (AP Photo, File)

Two separate accounts accuse the Myanmar military of systemic torture and, in one of case, mass killings. The reports, one in the BBC and the other in the New York Times, allege that military leaders who took control of the country in a February coup are attempting to crush dissent. The details:

  • In one township: The BBC reports that soldiers rounded up at least 40 male civilians in July, beat and tortured them to death over several hours, and then buried them in shallow mass graves in Kani Township. The area is an opposition stronghold, but families of the men say they were not involved in any attacks on soldiers. The BBC based its report on eyewitness accounts, as well as mobile phone video and photos from the human rights group Myanmar Witness.

  • No denial: "We couldn't stand to watch it so we kept our heads down, crying," says a woman whose brother, nephew, and brother-in-law were killed. Another witness is a man who escaped: "They were tied up, beaten with stones and rifle butts, and tortured all day," he says of the others. A military spokesperson pointedly did not deny the allegations: "It can happen," he tells the BBC. "When they treat us as enemies, we have the right to defend ourselves."
  • Interrogation: The report in the New York Times describes the arrest and interrogation of Myanmar journalist Ko Aung Kyaw in March. He says soldiers at an interrogation center beat him, burned his face, stepped on his fingers, and nearly suffocated him by repeatedly placing a plastic bag over his head. They wanted his sources, but he had deleted them from his phone. "In my mind, I was dead," he recalls. "Later, when I saw the photo they took, I didn’t recognize myself. My face was swollen and I didn’t look like a human."
  • Far more: An estimated 11,000 people have been arrested since the coup, and almost all of them have been tortured to some extent, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an advocacy group. More than 180 have been tortured to death, says the group.
(More Myanmar stories.)

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