Myanmar Military Tortures Prisoners To Get Information About Opposition

According to an American citizen and journalist who was recently released from a Yangon prison, Myanmar’s military junta uses torture to obtain information on the whereabouts of senior opposition members and activists.
Nathan Maung, 44, was detained in Myanmar for more than three months before he was deported to the United States on June 15. In Yangon, the country’s largest city, he was held for two weeks in a secret military interrogation center.
Nathan Maung told CNN Business from Washington, DC, that his time in the facility was “hell” and that he was prepared to die there, believing the soldiers would kill him.
According to the advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, he is one of more than 6,200 people arrested since Myanmar’s military, led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, seized power in a coup on February 1. After overthrowing Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, the military launched a bloody crackdown on dissent and on any perceived opposition. Street protests have been suppressed with deadly force.
Former prisoners, lawyers, and family members of those detained have told CNN that detainees have been tortured during interrogations and denied communication with family members. There have also been deaths from torture, including those related to ousted national party National League for Democracy (NLD).
Despite months of escalating violence, the junta says it is using restraint against what it calls “riotous protesters,” who it claims attack police and harm the country’s security and stability.
Nathan Maung is co-founder and editor in chief of the online news site Kamayut Media in Myanmar. During a raid on their office on March 9, he was arrested alongside co-founder and news producer Hanthar Nyein, 39.
Nathan Maung, a citizen of the United States, feels guilty and unhappy about his release due to his American citizenship, while Myanmar national Hanthar Nyein remains in the notorious Insein Prison.
The two of us have been through hell together, so we should be released together,” Nathan Maung said, his voice cracking with emotion. “I want him to know we are not forgetting him. He is not alone.”
Additionally, Danny Fenster, another American journalist prevented from leaving Myanmar on May 24, remains detained at Insein Prison.
When a convoy of military trucks carrying soldiers pulled up outside Kamayut Media’s office in Yangon, Nathan Maung knew something was wrong. Security forces barged through the door and raided the office, seizing equipment and taking Nathan Maung and Hanthar Nyein with them as they left.
He said, referring to a suburb of Yangon, that they sent them to the interrogation center in Mingaladon.
They were denied food and water for three days, Nathan Maung claims. They were handcuffed and blindfolded nearly the entire two weeks they were there, he said.
“They handcuffed us and blindfolded us before they started questioning us. They beat us for every answer, regardless of whether it was correct or incorrect,” he said.
Nathan Maung said the facility had five houses and an office. Four interrogation cells are located within the buildings, he said. On his last day there, his blindfold was removed, allowing him to see the room and the buildings.
“In the room, there is a CCTV camera, there is no bed, only a small table, and chair, so you sit all day and night,” he said. There is no time to sleep because you are blindfolded. They put handcuffs in front of you so you can try to sleep like that, but every five minutes they come and question you.”

In addition to the house and cell moves, the detainees were subjected to eight days of torture.
Nathan Maung said Hanthar Nyein bore the brunt of the torture.
He said Hanthar was treated badly because he was a Burmese national. Hanthar had to kneel on the ground for two days. His skin was burned with cigarettes.
Nathan Maung believes that the soldiers pressured Hanthar Nyein into divulging his phone password, which would give them access to his encrypted communications and phone records with high-profile opposition and activist leaders.
Hanthar Nyein refused to reveal the password for days, offering them false numbers in the hopes that his phone would automatically lock everyone out. But the final straw came when the guards threatened to rape him.
As a result, Hanthar surrendered his password and they stopped beating him, Nathan Maung said.
Nathan Maung’s phone broke during the arrest. The beatings stopped for him on the fourth day, he said, when the soldiers discovered he was a US citizen.
In addition to beating me, they asked why I was in the US and why I received US funding – simply dumb questions, he said. “I said no, I’m a journalist, no one gave me money.”
Consequently, the line of interrogation focused instead on his media company, Kamayut Media. He said the soldiers asked about budgets and finances. He asked if we had done any fundraising or where we got it from.
Nathan Maung feared he would die in the interrogation cell.
I thought we would still be alive if we survived for two days at the beginning, but after that, nobody knows,” he said. “When they started giving us water, I thought we wouldn’t die, we’d live.”
Nathan Maung said he meditated to cope with the mental and physical trauma. “That’s the only thing that saved us from the hell,” he said.
However, his ordeal was not over.
Nathan Maung revealed he was transferred to a detention center adjacent to Myanmar’s Insein Prison, an overcrowded facility with about 10,000 inmates that has a reputation for poor treatment.
According to him, he was held in a large cell with about 80 other people, all student activists, protesters, and NLD members. Then he was moved to solitary confinement, where he stayed until his release on June 14.
Nathan Maung and Hanthar Nyein’s treatment in detention is not an isolated incident.
According to Human Rights Watch, many of the thousands of people arbitrarily detained by the military have been subjected to torture, routine beatings, and other ill-treatment since the coup.
The report notes that “Myanmar’s military and police hold detainees in overcrowded, unhygienic interrogation centers and prisons, and detainees are frequently kept incommunicado, unable to communicate with relatives or attorneys.” Those who died have been described as having been beaten, burned by cigarettes, and placed in stress positions.
HRW Myanmar researcher Manny Maung, who is not related to Nathan Maung, said in a statement that since the coup, authorities have used torture “without fear of repercussions.”
“The brutality of the beatings shows how far Myanmar’s military authorities will go to silence those who oppose the coup,” she said.
Nathan Maung believes he was arrested because the military took him “as an enemy.”

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