Two men were murdered by soldiers after being detained in Mandalay Region this week in seperate incidents, locals have told Myanmar Now.
Than Tun Aung, a 25-year-old farmer, was detained and severely beaten on Monday after soldiers stationed in his village of Khine, Myingyan Township, started firing their guns at random, several locals there said.
He was among 11 men at the village bar at the time who were accused of an “unauthorised gathering” and taken to the local school.
Than Tun Aung fainted from the beatings on his way to the school, but the soldiers splashed him with water to wake him up and kept beating him as they continued on their way, said a local who spoke to eyewitnesses.
“The kid died while they splashed water on him and kicked him repeatedly,” the local said. “They were beating him for ‘not answering’ their questions but the truth is he just couldn’t speak anymore because of his injuries.”
Five hours after his arrest, villagers found his body between the market and the local clinic covered with a blanket. Soldiers told villagers he died of a cold, said another local, who has now fled Khine.
Than Tun Aung’s funeral was held at the village cemetery on Tuesday, but soldiers disrupted the ceremony by blocking the way for people who were carrying his body to be cremated, said the second local.
“The main road to the cemetery is the road near the school where the soldiers are stationed,” he said. “The soldiers came out of the school and told us that they couldn’t let us pass, so we had to go through the woods to get to the cemetery.”
Than Tun Aung leaves behind a 22-year-old wife and a one-year-old son.
Around 30 soldiers have been stationed at the school for about a month and more than 1,500 residents have fled to nearby villages.
The 10 other people detained with Than Tun Aung have been released but are not allowed to leave the village, locals said. “Those who were arrested didn’t dare to flee because the military threatened to harm their families if they did,” said one resident.
Than Tun Aung’s family did not want to speak with the media because soldiers were still in the village, the locals added.
Soldiers have been checking villagers’ mobile phones and social media pages, they said.
There have also been incidents of soldiers detaining villagers and forcing them to sing the Myanmar national anthem while they beat them, the locals said, adding that in other cases soldiers have forced villagers to fight each other.
Junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun could not be reached for comment.
In a similar case on Wednesday, Phyo Maung Ye, the 30-year-old owner of the Today teashop in Sintgaing Township’s Kathe village, was shot in the leg three times as he was detained by junta forces and died in custody at the Hpalanbo police station the same day.
Twelve police and soldiers detained Phyo Maung Ye along with his wife and two-year-old son, who were also taken to the police station but released hours later, according to locals.
Phyo Maung Ye was arrested on suspicion of helping to fund the People’s Defence Force (PDF), said one local.
“A Facebook account wrote that Phyo Maung Ye was financially supporting the PDF and he posted a status to refute that claim, but he was arrested at his shop the next day,” said the local. “He was shot three times in his leg during his arrest. We heard he had his arm broken during interrogation as well.”
The police station claimed that Phyo Maung Ye died when he tripped and fell during an escape attempt. They did not allow his family to take his body and said they had cremated it themselves.
“It’s impossible that he tripped and fell and died. He died because they tortured him. He had already been shot when he was arrested,” said another local.
“He was a good person doing honest work. He was not affiliated with the PDF either,” he added. “He did not give them any financial support. It saddens me a lot that our own villager had to experience this.”
The Sintgaing chapter of the PDF said Phyo Maung Ye’s killing was an act of terrorism by the military. “He was not a member and he was not a supporter. They took out their anger on an innocent civilian,” said a member of the group.
Myanmar Now tried to contact the military council and the Hpalanbo police station about Phyo Ye Maung’s death but all calls went unanswered.
In July junta forces arrested and tortured another teashop owner in Sintgaing. Min Thu Tun was detained along with his wife and child in Ohn Pin Chan and reportedly lost his hearing and some of his eyesight while being interrogated.
At least 1,302 civilians have been killed by the junta since it seized power in February and 7,687 remain in junta custody, according to recent figures from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.