Family still has no contact with military medical student who criticised generals on Facebook 

The parents of a military medical student say they have had no contact with their son for weeks after he criticised military leaders on Facebook.

Khaing Khant Kyaw went missing late last month after making several posts criticising Myanmar’s former dictators. In one, he hit out at the regime for shooting “students who had no weapons whatsoever.” 

“We haven’t been able to contact him since the end of August,” a close family friend told Myanmar Now. “Even his parents don’t know exactly what happened. They’ve been asking their connections in the military.”

His family and close friends have sent a letter to the Defence Services Medical Academy asking where he has been detained and under what charges.

Asked about the student’s whereabouts, an officer serving under the office of the commander-in-chief told Myanmar Now: “We don’t really know for sure. We don’t know if he’s been detained or not. We are aware of his Facebook posts but not the procedures underway.”

The officer directed Myanmar Now to the military’s True News Information Team, saying he did not have authority to give out more information. The team did not answer several phone calls seeking comment. 

Khaing Khant Kyaw shared a Facebook post in August criticising former dictators Ne Win and Than Shwe and praising State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

He also wrote on his page: “I didn’t enlist because I love the military.”

In another he posted photos from the 2003 Depayin massacre and wrote: “Who was it that said ‘guns aren’t supposed to be aimed at the sky’ and shot students who had no weapons whatsoever?” 

His profile has since been removed from Facebook.

Khaing Khant Kyaw, from Pyay, is in his second year at the Defence Services Medical Academy in Mingalardon township, Yangon.

He graduated high school in Pyay with five distinctions in 2018 and applied for the military academy because he couldn’t get into a civilian medical school, which have notoriously tough entry requirements. 

One of his former high school tutors, who asked not to be named, said he was a sharp student and acted on his beliefs.

“He always stood firmly for what he believed in. I don’t think he’ll apologise,” the tutor said.

Kyaw Swar Win, a former major who was sentenced to two years in prison for signing a petition to amend the military-drafted constitution, said the Tatmadaw was “very sensitive” about criticism online.

He added that he thought it “unlikely” that the student’s posts praising Aung San Suu Kyi would have angered the military on their own. “But since the military has a history of being sensitive when it comes to social media, we can’t tell for sure.”

“The main thing is political control. It’s become a custom to punish anyone they don’t like,” he said. 

Dr Soe Thura Zaw, an alumni of the Central Institute of Civil Service, one of many institutions still controlled by retired military officials, was investigated for posting about his experiences of being taught “propaganda” at the institute last year. He was also tracked by security organisations including Special Branch, he said.

He said Khaing Khant Kyaw’s case reminds him of his own experience.

“This poses a question of whether our basic rights and expression are taken away just because we’re [government] employees,” he said.

He added: “I have to say I’m lucky; I wasn’t jailed.”

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