Myanmar’s Military Junta Kills, Detains Youths in Crackdown on Protest Movement
The generals ruling Myanmar appear to fear the country’s young because 'they have the courage to fight back,' one rights group says.
Myanmar security authorities are targeting the country’s youth in a crackdown on opponents of the Feb. 1 coup that has seen hundreds of young people detained and others killed or forcibly disappeared, rights groups and a U.N. agency say.
Hundreds of young people in Myanmar have been arrested in crackdowns on anti-junta protests and charged with opposing the country’s military rulers under Section 505(a) of Myanmar’s Penal Code, and many have been tortured in custody, sources say.
Many young people in Myanmar have also been killed, said UNICEF, the United Nations agency responsible for providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide, in a May 5 statement.
Among these, 53 children under the age of 18, including seven girls, have been killed since the army took power, and at least 1,000 children and youths are now being held without access to lawyers or their families, UNICEF said.
“UNICEF is extremely concerned about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Myanmar,” Marc Rubin, UNICEF’s East Asia and Pacific Regional Adviser for Emergency, said in an email response to questions from RFA. “The delivery of key services for children has already been seriously disrupted.”
“Without urgent action, these children will suffer many negative impacts—physical, psychological, emotional, educational and economic,” Rubin said.
The generals ruling Myanmar appear to especially fear the country’s young because of their strong resistance to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, said Nickey Diamond of the rights group Fortify Rights.
“They have the courage to fight back. So [the generals] have to intimidate these young people. That’s why they are targeting and arresting them,” Diamond said, adding, “I think this will make young people even more united, though, and they will find new ways to defeat their enemy.”
Detained and killed
Young men arrested by junta forces are sometimes held for months without word to their families, with their bodies then returned after they are killed, sources say.
On April 6, the bodies of two youths were recovered at a hospital in Monywa city after they and three other villagers were arrested four days before by security forces during a raid on Thabye village in Sagaing region’s Yinmabin township
Nothing more has been heard of the three villagers still held, one family member told RFA, saying that a cousin was among the group still missing.
“We have made enquiries to Monywa, but there has still been no information about them,” he said. “We are worried that something may happen to them if these arrests are still kept in the dark.”
Meanwhile in Mandalay, Kaung Htet Naing—a 22-year-old student at Yadanarbon University—was shot and dragged into a car by soldiers on April 24, a family member said, adding, “It is hard to describe my feelings. [The soldiers] are doing whatever they want.”
“We have no right to take legal action, and I am in no position to do anything about this. I just collect whatever information I can,” he said.
The family searched for Kaung Htet Naing in local police stations and hospitals, but now believes he may have been killed and his body cremated along with others by soldiers in a local cemetery, as evidence found at the cemetery appeared to connect the missing man to the scene, RFA’s source said.
'Taking the lead'
Speaking to RFA, one young man living in Myanmar’s former capital Yangon said he now sees Myanmar’s revolution against military rule developing along two tracks. One will be a mass movement involving open protests, he said.
“The other will be armed resistance, with those who have learned military skills fighting with weapons.”
“Young people are taking the lead in many ways,” he said, adding, “[The junta] thinks they can scare people if they can just stop the young.”
“I think that’s why they are targeting more of us now,” he said.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Richard Finney.