Military refuses to hand over body of Pyay man who died in custody

Relatives of a man who was reported dead a day after his arrest in Bago Region’s Pyay Township on Tuesday say the military has refused to release his body so they can hold a funeral for him.

The family of 33-year-old Aung Myint Hlaing said they were summoned to the military hospital in Shwetaung, a town some 20km south of the city of Pyay, to see his body on Wednesday.

“His body was in a coffin with only the head visible. There were bruises on his face, throat and cheeks. After we had a look at the body, the soldiers told us to leave. They said they had already dug a hole for him,” Khin Thandar Myint, the victim’s sister, told Myanmar Now.

She said her brother was arrested at around 8pm on Tuesday in connection with a bomb blast in front of a branch of the military-owned Innwa Bank in Shwetaung on April 24.

“They said they only needed to ask him a few questions and promised to send him back home. A military officer even swore on his life that nothing would happen to him,” said the sister.

About an hour after Aung Myint Hlaing’s arrest, the troops came back to the same ward and apprehended three more people from the area, she said.

“We heard someone shouting loudly, ‘Mother, save me. I’m dying!’ Then the yelling suddenly stopped,” said Khin Thandar Myint.

She said neighbors later told the family that they saw Aung Myint Hlaing after the troops returned. They said he looked like he had been badly beaten and appeared to be unconscious as they dragged him through the street.

The authorities claimed that he died after jumping off the truck that was being used to transport him to an interrogation site.

The family said that Aung Myint Hlaing had taken temporary ordination into the Buddhist monkhood on the day of the blast, and so could not have been involved.

According to his sister, the family plans to make an offering to monks on Saturday in his memory.

This incident is merely the latest in a number of cases involving prisoners of the regime who have died shortly after being taken into custody.

Two of the most high-profile cases occurred in March, when two officials of the National League for Democracy (NLD) died soon after their arrest.

Khin Maung Latt, a ward chair for the NLD in Yangon’s Pabedan Township, died on March 7 after soldiers and police took him from his home during a night raid the day before.

The following day, Zaw Myat Lin, an NLD member who ran the Suu Vocational Institute in Yangon’s Shwepyithar Township, was also arrested by soldiers during a night raid. 

A day later, township police informed his family of his death and told his wife to go to the Mingaladon military hospital to identify his body. 

His body, which showed signs of torture, was returned to his family. The junta’s state-run newspaper claimed that he died of “other causes”.

Another victim was Marlar Win, a mother of three who was arrested after being shot while taking part in an anti-coup protest in Pakokku, in Magway Region. Her family was told to retrieve her body a day after her arrest.

More than 760 people have been killed by the junta’s armed forces since the coup on February 1. The regime has denied the accuracy of the death toll and made false claims about the murders of some protesters by its police and soldiers. 

They have attributed even high-profile deaths—including Kyal Sin in Mandalay, Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing in Naypyitaw, and Tin Nwe Yi in Yangon—to violence perpetrated by other protesters or to natural causes, contrary to evidence proving otherwise. 


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