Before executions, Myanmar’s junta tortured opponents to quell dissent

Executions, brutal beatings and sexual violence – Myanmar’s military junta is resorting to increasingly brutal measures to crush opposition to its rule, according to a new report by Amnesty International on Monday.

The report adds evidence that detainees are being tortured by the military regime that took power from Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government in February 2021, prompting calls for the international community to crack down on the junta.

“It’s a message that they will do whatever it takes to maintain their power,” a Myanmar researcher told Amnesty NBC News via email.

“As long as the Myanmar military is not held accountable for its crimes, it is difficult to imagine any prospect of peace in Myanmar,” said the researcher, whose name will not be used for security reasons.

The report comes after the government executed four democracy activists last month, the first such killings in more than 30 years. The execution of the four men – Kyaw Min Yu, Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw, who were convicted after a closed trial – has been condemned internationally, including by the UN Security Council.

“As the situation in Myanmar deteriorates, this is a moment to stop, assess and move forward in a coordinated and very robust way, based on action and not just condemnation,” said Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar NBC News by phone.

“The longer we delay the necessary measures, the greater the disaster that will hit the people of Myanmar,” he added.

Myanmar nationals living in South Korea march
The executions of the four men were internationally condemned.Ahn Young-joon / AP

According to the Aid Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) more than 70 other political prisoners In Myanmar, formerly Burma, he is at risk of execution, while 41 have been sentenced to death in absentia. It’s unclear whether the junta will carry out more executions, but “the more desperate they get, the more brutal they become,” Bo Kyi, the NGO’s joint secretary, said in an email.

The Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to emailed requests for comment. Officials have defended the executions as “justice to the people,” saying the men were criminals who received due process.

Myanmar’s government-in-exile, known as the Government of National Unity, did not respond to a request for comment. After the executions were reported last week, Zin Mar Aung, the shadow government’s foreign minister, said Ukraine received weapons from abroad to fight Russia and Afghans were flown out of their country when the Taliban retook power last year , there was “deafening silence for the people of Myanmar”.

“How many more lives does the international community need? [to see destroyed] before she can take decisive action against the junta?” she asked in a Video posted online.

The State Department did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on whether it could do more to pressure the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw. Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said in a expression last week that the executions demonstrated the junta’s “complete disregard for human rights and the rule of law”.

Since the coup, the Myanmar military has responded to mostly peaceful protests with deadly force, killing more than 2,000 people, according to the AAPP, a figure the junta disputes. More than 14,500 people were arrested, including Suu Kyi and other senior government officials.

The junta declared a state of emergency after the coup and promised new elections in 2023. In a speech on Monday, junta leader Min Aung Hlaing said the state of emergency had been extended for another six months because of internal instability.

The junta is in bitter conflict with hundreds of anti-government militias across the country, and experts say the military’s casualties could be contributing to its escalating campaign against civilian opposition.

A protester holds a sign with photos of the Myanmar activist's execution victims
A protester in Seoul holds a sign with photos of the executed activists.Ahn Young-joon / AP

The torture of detainees is “part of an overall strategy aimed at breaking their courage and forcing people to give up any resistance to the 2021 military coup,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, in a press release was attached to the report.

Detainees described physical violence, coerced confessions, threats of murder and rape and unsanitary conditions, according to the report, which was based on 15 interviews in March with former detainees, lawyers and experts. Lawyers said they were having trouble finding their clients.

One protester, Ma Kyu, said a police officer told her after her arrest, “We don’t even have to put you in jail. We can just shoot you.”

Other abuses were sexual or gender-based. Saw Han Nway Oo, a transgender woman arrested in September 2021, said her interrogators stripped her of her clothes and mocked her naked body.

“During interrogation, whenever I used female pronouns for myself, they said you’re gay, so you must like that, and bared their male genitalia in front of me,” she told researchers.

The findings of Amnesty International’s report are consistent with research by other human rights groups.

“I was recently in Chin State where we documented the use of torture by the military against detained ethnic Chin civilians,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of Bangkok-based group Fortify Rights. “It is widespread and systematic and shows no signs of decreasing.”

The military’s actions are “made possible by the lack of coordinated international action to stem the flow of funds and arms,” ​​said Yadanar Maung, a spokesman for Justice for Myanmar.

“The US has a particularly crucial role to play in this,” she said. In addition to a global arms embargo, he called for sanctions against Myanmar’s national oil and gas company and other junta business interests.

State-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise has already been sanctioned by the European Union, while French energy company Total and American energy company Chevron have announced their withdrawal from the country.

Smith agreed, “The military is using these funds to murder civilians and they must be stopped.” Before executions, Myanmar’s junta tortured opponents to quell dissent

Fry Electronics Team

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