Pregnant woman miscarries after beating by soldiers

A woman from Yangon Region’s Hmawbi Township who was beaten by soldiers after they found protest photos on her phone has had a miscarriage, according to local residents.

The woman, who was two months pregnant, was one of more than 40 people arrested in connection with a fire that broke out at a primary school in the village of Sein Shwe Kone on June 14. 

She was arrested and beaten later the same day when a photo of her at a protest was discovered on her mobile phone.

“They found that picture and took her away. She said they used a device to check her phone, so that even deleted pictures were recovered. It seems all the pictures appeared even if they were deleted,” a resident of the village said. 

“She took photos during protest rallies. The authorities asked for the home addresses of those in the pictures. They used the phone to hunt the protesters,” the villager added.

The woman was released on June 16 and is currently receiving medical treatment, residents said. Myanmar Now was unable to contact her directly at the time of reporting.

A female resident said that the soldiers arrived a few hours after the fire broke out and demanded to know who in the village had ties to the National League for Democracy (NLD). 

“The soldiers came and rounded everyone up. They asked a few people about the arson attack. When the villagers said they didn’t know anything about it, the soldiers wanted to know who in the village was associated with the NLD and who participated in protests. The soldiers beat the villagers until they got the answer,” the woman said.

Residents said that 10 people were arrested on the day of the fire and more than 30 others were taken into custody two days later. Anyone who was found to have liked posts about the NLD on Facebook was arrested, according to residents.

Many others in the village of roughly 1,000 people were also subjected to questioning. 

“They said they would interrogate everyone until they found out who the arsonist was,” said one young resident who was among those who were temporarily detained.

“They said that if we tried to evade arrest, they would give our parents trouble. At night, I just had to sit at home and wait for my turn,” she said.

Another resident said that soldiers also examined the list of households in the village to see which ones had children who were not enrolled in school.

“Whenever they found a child who was not enrolled in the school, they beat the child’s parents,” said the villager.

Most of those who were detained were also subjected to beatings, residents said.

“First they hit them five times with a bamboo stick and asked them who the arsonist was. If they said they didn’t know, they were beaten 10 times with the stick. Then 15 and 20 times if they still said they didn’t know,” said one villager. 

An activist in Hmawbi said that he could not confirm how many people had been released because some were reluctant to share information out of fear of re-arrest.

A state-run newspaper reported on June 18 that 56 textbooks, three dozen notebooks, and several pieces of furniture were destroyed in the fire.

Junta-controlled media has accused alleged terrorists with links to the NLD of bombing schools and carrying out attacks against teachers and students.

Local People’s Defence Forces loyal to the ousted NLD government have denied targeting civilians in their campaign to pressure the regime to give up power.

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