“They took turns, beating us relentlessly. We couldn’t stay on our knees for long. Every time we fell, they would start beating on us again. So many of us were beaten up,” said a 30-year-old man from Myeik, in southern Myanmar’s Tanintharyi region.
The man is one of more than 70 protesters arrested during anti-coup demonstrations in Myeik on Tuesday.
He recalled how soldiers and police closed in on them from both ends of D street in the city’s Kat Thit ward at around 9am. There were around 45 men and 25 women in the group, he said, ranging in age from their early teens to their thirties.
All of the men were whipped repeatedly with strips of iron or beaten with wooden rods. Some were even hit with heavy chains, he said.
Photos received by Myanmar Now showed the extent of the damage inflicted on them: their backs, buttocks and chests were covered with painful-looking injuries.
While they were being tortured in this way, the protesters were also forced to sing the famous anti-dictatorship anthem “Kabar Ma Kyay Buu” over and over again and repeat protest slogans.
“They said, ‘What is it you chant and sing in marches and protests? How many fingers do you hold up?’ and beat us up. Anyone with a tattoo of Amay Suu was treated even worse,” he said, referring to Aung San Suu Kyi, long regarded as the leader of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement.
“And they said, ‘You called us military dogs. Well, military dogs bite.’ And they just kept beating us,” the man said.
Around 10 soldiers made the men take off their shirts, put their hands behind their heads, and kneel down for one long, continuous session of beatings.
“If we raised our heads, they’d tell us to keep it down. They were afraid we’d see their faces. We kept falling down because we couldn’t stay on our knees while we were being beaten up. We were in a line and they would go back and forth, beating us constantly while we were in the room,” he said.
Of those arrested, only one woman who was injured by a rubber bullet was taken to a military hospital, while the rest were transported to the air force base near Myeik airport to be brutally tortured.
The majority of those arrested were students, who received the same treatment as the adults, even though the Myeik police told the soldiers not to be so hard on them, another detainee told Myanmar Now following his release.
“When we were arrested, there were police from Myeik who told the soldiers not to beat up the students. But the soldiers beat them anyway, saying that this was what they had come here all the way from Naypyitaw for,” he said.
One arrested woman said the youth protesters were arrested after soldiers fired guns inside the houses they ran into to escape the crackdown.
Another woman who had been hiding inside a house said soldiers kicked down a door to get in and shot her repeatedly with rubber bullets from just three feet away.
“They kicked the door open, aimed and shot me twice in the neck,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “The bastards even arrested the homeowners,” she added.
“When they arrested the girls, they said, ‘We can do whatever we want with you. We can jail you for six months,’” one of detained girls told Myanmar Now.
“They hit one girl with the butt of a gun. She got four stitches. And another girl was kicked in the face. It’s all swollen up,” she said, adding that they were also taunted for their age.
“They said, ‘You’re pretty young. Do you even know what democracy is?’ And when we were released, the soldiers said, ‘Young people have nothing to do with politics. If you are involved again, we will put you in jail,’” the girl said.
“Once I recover, I’ll continue to protest wherever I can. We can’t lose this battle or give up,” said added defiantly.
“From the start of this dictatorship, they’ve done whatever they wanted to do. The law is whatever they say it is. I loathe this system. Even the internet is restricted. Not even Covid was this bad. The dictatorship is way worse,” she said.
According to the girl, around half of the detained protesters—29 men and six women—are still in custody and have been sentenced to one month in prison without charges.
However, Myanmar Now was unable to confirm the exact number of protesters who were arrested or how many remain in custody.
Among the arrested, some have been sent to Myeik prison. Others were released after they were bailed out by their parents, teachers, or ward administrators.
“We had to sign a release saying that we wouldn’t do this again. They said if we’re arrested again, all they will return to our families is our bodies,” said one man who vowed to continue fighting after he had recovered from his injuries.
“Once you get arrested, they will beat you up. Hard. They have no humanity,” he said.
“They can be so inhumane because they have weapons. We had to put our heads down because we don’t have weapons. I will never forgive and forget. My own parents have never hit me this much, this relentlessly. I’ve only seen this kind of torture in movies before. This is terrible. I’m not okay with it at all and we must win this revolution,” he added.