HRW says Myanmar teenager tortured, subjected to mock burial

Human Rights Watch says Myanmar security forces beat 17-year-old boy and buried him up to his neck as part of a mock burial.

In this March 6, 2021, photo, riot police officers hold down a protester as they disperse protesters in Tharkata Township on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar [AP]

Security forces in Myanmar have tortured a 17-year-old boy, according to Human Rights Watch, including by subjecting him to beatings and forcing him into a pit and burying him up to his neck as part of a mock burial.

In a new report on Tuesday, the rights group said the teenager was one among many people who have been subject to torture, beatings and other ill-treatment since Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup on February 1.

The boy was arrested in early May during a night raid on his home and accused of being the ringleader of a protest group.

He told HRW that he was beaten on the head with a rifle butt during the arrest, blindfolded, and then taken to an interrogation centre at a location he could not identify. Over the next four days, military interrogators repeatedly hit him with a bamboo stick filled with cement and ground the rod against his shins during questioning, he said.

“On the third day, they drove me to a forested area about an hour away from wherever the interrogation place was,” he was quoted as saying.

“They forced me to lie down into a pit while I was blindfolded, and my hands tied. They also planned to hit my head with a mattock, and I thought I was going to be buried alive when they started covering me with the dirt.”

The boy said he and others arrested with him were denied food and water for days and drank toilet water to survive. He was held at the interrogation facility for a total of seven days before being transferred to the Insein Prison in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, and eventually released after signing a false confession.

HRW said it found the boy’s statement credible because of multiple similar accounts from other people detained by the military.

Manny Maung, a researcher at HRW, said Myanmar authorities have been “using torture without fear of repercussions” since the February 1 coup.

“The sheer brutality of the beatings and abuse shows the lengths to which Myanmar’s military authorities are going to silence anyone opposing the coup,” she added.

There was no immediate comment from Myanmar’s military.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma, a monitoring group, Myanmar’s security forces have killed at least 873 people in the post-coup crackdown and detained at least 6,231 people.

HRW said many of those detained are held in overcrowded, unhygienic interrogation centres and prisons, and deprived of the right to contact relatives or legal counsel. Other sources interviewed by the group said security forces often transported detainees to police precincts and interrogation facilities where they were beaten and forced to stand, kneel or lie in stress positions for hours.

HRW’s account is the latest in a series of reports of torture and ill-treatment by security forces in Myanmar.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said in May that Myanmar authorities physically abused two journalists working at the Kamayut Media during the first two weeks of their detention at Yangon’s Yay Kyi Ai interrogation centre in March.

Citing an intermediary who spoke to the journalists’ families, the CPJ said Nathan Maung and Han Thar Nyein “were severely beaten around their heads, burnt on their belly, thighs, and buttocks with lit cigarettes, and made to kneel on ice while their hands were cuffed behind them during interrogations”.

The pair were later transferred to the Insein Prison and charged with “spreading fake news”. Maung, a citizen of the United States, has since been released but Han Thar Nyein remains in custody and faces up to three years in prison.

In April, a 17-year-old protester told the RFA news outlet that she had met one woman at an interrogation centre in Yangon’s Shwepyitha township who had been beaten with a metal pipe and kicked in her groin.

“When she arrived at the interrogation centre, she could barely walk or eat. Her face was brutally bruised, and her lips were split,” the teenager was quoted as saying.

“Her eyes were bruised, but she could still see. She said her vagina was bleeding due to the kicking. If they had kept on beating her and conducting a long interrogation session, I don’t think she would have survived.”

Source: Al Jazeera