Suspects in Myanmar Warehouse Theft Tortured by Local Police

The two men were badly burned and suffered injuries from beatings, a rights investigator says.

Burns are shown on a victim of police torture in Myanmar.

Two fishermen accused of stealing money and supplies from a warehouse in Myanmar’s Irrawaddy division have been tortured under questioning by police, with both men suffering burns to their genitalia and injuries from blows to their face, a rights worker says.

Khin Maung Latt, suspected in the theft of more than 400 million kyats (U.S. $299,849) worth of goods from a Labutta township warehouse, was detained on Jan. 21, with a second suspect, Soe Mya Aung, picked up as an accomplice on March 15, U Zaw Yan, a human rights investigator told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

Both men were beaten during interrogation and had a hot plastic liquid poured onto them by police, U Zaw Yan said.

“The burns are especially bad around their waist and private parts, and they cannot walk on their own,” he said.

“They now have difficulty eating because their mouths and cheeks are swollen from being slapped so many times.  Also, they are unable to move their hands because they were suspended by their handcuffed hands behind their back for long periods of time.”

“They also have trouble urinating,” he said.

The two men are now being treated at the Labutta township hospital, and their families have filed a complaint, he said.

“The matter is now being investigated personally by the chief of the regional police,” he said.

Supplies for cyclone relief

The house in the township’s Daung Chaung village from which the goods were allegedly stolen was being used to store goods for distribution to survivors of Cyclone Nargis, a devastating storm in May 2008 that left over 138,000 dead, according to official sources.

At least 80,000 are believed to have died in Labutta township alone, sources say.

Despite expectations that Myanmar’s ruling National League for Democracy would enact sweeping reforms in the Southeast Asian country after it came to power nearly two years ago, reports persist of abuses at the hands of the country’s military and police.

On Jan. 16, police in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine state shot dead seven ethnic Rakhine protesters and wounded 13 others after thousands of members of the minority group marking a nationalist Buddhist anniversary converged on a government office in the ancient town of Mrauk U.

Rights groups have also noted indications that the government led by de facto national leader and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi is backpedaling on freedom of expression and peaceful protest in the formerly military-ruled country.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.