01/04/2022, 11.21
MYANMAR
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Systematic torture against opponents of the Burmese junta

Testimony from prisoners released in October under a general amnesty. During interrogations, lasting days or weeks, soldiers do not ask questions to obtain information, but inflict atrocious violence on civilians.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Since the February 1, 2021 coup, Myanmar's military junta has made extensive use of torture against political detainees. The independent website Myanmar Now has collected testimonies from prisoners released in recent months after a general amnesty granted in October by coup general Min Aung Hlaing. The self-proclaimed prime minister had ordered the release of about 2,000 political prisoners in a failed attempt to prevent Myanmar's exclusion from last autumn's ASEAN summit.

The violence begins during interrogations, which can last several days or weeks. Testimony has shown that the military was not so much interested in extorting information as in inflicting atrocities for their own sake.

A 38-year-old man, who told his story using the pseudonym "P2," said that for 20 days, three hours a night he was tortured by the regime's soldiers in a small room: "To call it a room of hell would be an understatement." P2's body didn't have time to recover between the violence: "While they whipped me, hit me with batons or put out lit cigarettes on me, they were busy preparing electrical cables to electrocute me." His torturers never asked him any questions, but to prevent him from passing out and keep him awake they would shine a light in his eyes. Before his release, P2 spent five months in Insen prison and is now training to fight with anti-coup militias.

Instead, when the army failed to find a member of the National League for Democracy - the party of former civilian government leader Aung San Suu Kyi - they detained and tortured his 20-year-old son. The former politician turned himself in, hoping to secure his son's release, but that did not happen: "They stabbed him in the forehead with scissors. They made him put three fingers on a step and smashed them with the butt of a rifle," the father recounted. "They also beat him with his hands tied behind his back. They did it in the room next to mine so I could hear him." Father and son were tortured inside an interrogation center in Meiktila, near Mandalay. 

"They call it interrogation, but we were not even allowed to talk. It was just one beating after another while I was handcuffed with my hands behind my back," said Saw Han Nway Oo, a 24-year-old trans woman arrested in September. "Mostly they would take turns beating my legs. They also twisted the tips of my nails using pliers." She was later sent to Mandalay police station, where she was tortured by the same officers. "They cut my skin with knives, twice on the back of my head and twice on my stomach. The wounds were not very deep, but deep enough to cut my veins. It was really painful," he explained.

According to data collected by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, so far more than 11,000 civilians have been arrested and nearly 1,400 killed by the army. Thousands remain in prison without having faced a trial.

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