The Asian Human Rights Commission on Monday released a special dossier of recent cases of arrest, detention, torture and extortion carried out by Burma military and police personnel in Kachin State.
The 36 cases from 2012 have all been conducted under the Unlawful Associations Act, 1908, a draconian colonial-era statute under which contact with groups that the government identifies as "unlawful" constitutes a criminal offence. The cases in the 69-page dossier have all been brought against people for alleged contact with the Kachin Independence Army, which has resumed civil war with government forces after a ceasefire agreement collapsed in 2011.
Extracts from testimonies contained in the dossier follow. Most testimonies are from the wives and mothers of accused persons. In one case, both husband and wife are accused.
The contents of the dossier were compiled by independent human rights defenders in Burma during 2012, and include summaries of cases, interviews with families of accused persons, and interviews with some lawyers handling cases. All cases occurred in Kachin State and northern Shan State.
"These cases taken together constitute a massive indictment of the military and police forces in Burma, and its government, and one that is not limited to the area in which these cases have been documented," Bijo Francis, acting executive director of the AHRC said on the release of the dossier.
"What is clear is that the armed forces and its affiliates are continuing to operate with utter impunity, and the political changes of the last year or so are either not designed to in any way address the enjoyment of impunity, or are ineffectual to do anything about it," he said.
The Hong Kong-based regional human rights group released the dossier on behalf of the human rights defenders working in the country because it wanted to draw attention to the links between abuses in the battlefield and the institutionalised abuses of the police, courts, and administrative agencies in the country, he added.
"What this dossier shows is that none of these practices are going on in a vacuum. All of them are being perpetrated through a systemic arrangement for the abuse of human rights in which the government of Burma continues to be utterly complicit," Francis stressed.
An attempt in 2012 by members of the country's legislature to have the Unlawful Associations Act revoked failed because of the predominance of members from the military, with military backgrounds or military connections.
The AHRC says in the foreword to the dossier that it supports efforts to get the law revoked but that this would in itself not be enough.
"This law, like others currently used in the country to violate fundamental human rights, is merely a vehicle for the abusive practices that the police and military forces conduct habitually," it says, noting that the habitual practices associated with the law are what persons concerned with the abuses documented ultimately must target.
CASES UNDER THE UNLAWFUL ASSOCIATIONS ACT 1908 BROUGHT AGAINST PEOPLE ACCUSED OF CONTACT WITH THE KACHIN INDEPENDENCE ARMY: SELECTED TESTIMONIES
Statement of Bawk La: Son accused in connection with explosion at house
Two policemen came at about 5-6 pm on 15 November 2011. They told him that they had something to ask him and took him away. Later, they handcuffed him behind his back and pushed him into the vehicle. I did not know where he was taken away. I inquired in No. 1 police station and No. 2 police station but they told me that he was not there. Later, I went to the Kachin State auxiliary police department and inquired about his. A person on duty said that he was there. Another one said that he was not there. I was weeping. My daughter-in-law was due for delivery. Eventually, the man told us that my son was there. I could not eat anything for about five days. I was informed to go there with community leaders. But I was not allowed to see him. On the sixth day I was told that he had been detained by SB (Special Branch), when I went to SB, they told me that they did not keep him there. On the 7th day, I was told that he had been transferred to No. 1 police station… We could meet him on 27 November 2011. As soon as I met him, I was shocked and I cried. My son also cried. He was behind the iron bars. He said he could not hear properly because they had struck him on his temple with the butt of a gun… He said he did not make confession when I asked him later. He lost his hearing after his temple had been struck for three days… I felt like my heart and my bones had been taken out and crushed. At first they came without any community leader accompanying them and said they would ask him a few questions. I thought he was simply called for inquiry.
Statement of Ze Nyoi: Husband accused of being KIA officer
My husband's name is Lahtaw Brang Shawng. He was arrested at 9:00 pm on 17 August 2012. They came to the IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp and arrested him. My family have come and stayed here in Jan Mai Kawng since the IDP camp was established. He was arrested on Sunday after I was just released from the hospital on Friday. I was still very weak and unable to walk properly when they came and took him away. We came to stay here on 29 July 2011. We have always been in the camp since we arrived here. They came and arrested him with the accusation of my husband involving in bomb explosion. They had no evidence or warrant for arrest. Over 10 people were arrested. Four of them were arrested inside the IDP camp. They were told they were going to be questioned on the explosion. Saya Aung Myat, the camp in charge went along with them. When they reached there, they were given seats in the sitting room, and Brang Shawng was led away inside. I asked my husband what they did to him inside. He said that the interrogator told him he had seen him before, and accused him as a KIA captain as soon as they reached inside the room. My husband replied that he was not a KIA captain, but an ordinary citizen earning his simple living. From that time on, they bound his hands behind his back and began to torture him. They hit his head many times and his nose was bleeding a lot. Now, his mind is not normal and he spoke Burmese when I went to see him again and he said that his brain was not normal anymore. He told me that Sa Ya Hpa tortured him for three days. But Saya Aung Myat said he might have been tortured for five days but he did not remember because he became lost consciousness. They left his hands tied behind his back without providing food for three days. Now, his left ear cannot hear at all. His right ear still can hear a little. Sometimes, we had trouble in communication because I said one thing and he heard a different thing. He is worse now because his hearing is impaired, he spits out blood when he coughs, and he says he cannot talk for a long time and something is wrong inside his chest. When he met Saya Aung Myat the first time, he said that they squeezed his throat and he could not swallow saliva because of pain in the throat. He did not tell me the worst thing that they burned his navel. I heard about from Saya Aung Myat. He told me only what I saw on his face. He showed me two-inches long scar on his face where they burned him. They burned his eyebrows with cigarette fire. I think that scar will remain there for life. Another wound was the scar on one of his thigh where they cut with a knife. They hit six times on both thighs and two people stepped on the bamboo bar that was pressing his shins on the cement floor. The scar on his calf is still visible… I have had 9 court appointments now. Every time I go to court I have to spend Ks. 8,000–10,000 (USD9.60-12).
Statement of Daw Nang Shwe Nan Be: Husband accused of harbouring people connected to KIA
The police knew that he was innocent. But they said, "It is order from the superiors. The arrest warrant came from the Ministry of Home Affairs. We can do nothing. Everything will be all right when you are at the court". His lawyer is Daw Than Than Win. But for penniless people like us we will have nothing left when we reach the court. They have arrested the head of our family and now they say that things will be all right when we get to the court. What should we do? He should be released if he is innocent. It is almost time for my children to go back to school. We have no money and the children cannot be sent to school yet… We cannot send our oldest son to kindergarten because we have no money. The children are affected too. He is asking about his father all the time but I could not answer him. I took him to his father in prison, but he was so surprised that we came back home without saying a word to his father. After that he never asked about his father. I feel very bad that he has trauma from meeting his father. Does the government realize our family members are suffering because they have detained the innocent man? Is it enough by saying "Everything will be all right when you get to the court?" Who will compensate for our sufferings and trauma?
Statement of Nhkum Kaw: Son tortured to admit being a member of KIA
The torture started upon their arrival in Myitkyina for interrogation. He was confined to cell for two nights. They (military intelligence) hit him with iron bars and gun butts. He was blind folded when he went to toilet. I have three children. He is my only son. I love him not wanting to be out of sight. I was unhappy when I saw him being tortured. I felt pity on him too. Every time I remembered this I wept. When he got sick we were not allowed to send western medicine. Only Burmese and Kachin traditional medicines (herbal) were allowed… Moreover, I have to pay bribe money so that they may not assign him chores. I had to buy a bed for him with Ks. 50,000 (USD60). In prison, the inmate has to give the warden a packet of coffee mix every time he goes to toilet. My son is the only breadwinner for me. My daughters are married and they cannot support me like he does. Now that he is in jail, I have no one to take care of me. I am in real trouble.
Statement of Daw Lu Mai: Husband accused of involvement in explosion at house
We could see him only one month and 15 days after he had been arrested and taken away. He later told me that he was hung up side down and beaten with a club. He said he was forced to kneel on pebbled paths and tortured in many different ways. I was running mad. My 5-year-old daughter died the night of the incident. My husband was arrested. Our older daughter is in grade 4 this year. I am earning alone to make ends meet at home. I am carrying my husband's duty now. I do odd jobs to earn money for household expense and for going to appear at court appointments… I need to spend at least Ks. 30,000 (USD36) every time I go to appear at court appointment. Some time I spent Ks. 50,000 (USD60) including the taxi fare, purchase of his needs, and fees at prison. One visit to see the prisoner costs Ks. 20,000 (USD24). I have spent about Ks. 400,000 / 500,000 (USD480-600).
Statement of Daw Hpauyam Lu: Son tortured to admit hiding munitions for KIA
My sufferings are beyond my expressions. We have learnt from the authorities why Brang Yung was arrested. Having been hired by cow traders to drive the courts to China. They came across an army convoy. The army asked for Ks. 100,000 (USD120) for each cow. When he told the soldiers that he did not have that much money because they were hired workers to send the cows for sale then they arrested him, began to torture him. They accused him of hiding guns and took him to search for the weapons in the jungle. He has never known what ammunitions look like… When the night fell, (military intelligence) used to get drunk and torture the suspects. They said, "You are KIA soldiers. You install mines" when my son replied "no" they tortured him more… He said that he was also electrocuted. His face was burned with hot iron plate… His body was blue and black all over. He said that he had been beaten with iron bars. Recently, we went to the court appointment twice, and he told our lawyer that he could not eat. Every time we go to court appointment we have to borrow money. We have no one to earn money. Sometime ago, I worked on odd jobs for daily wages. Now, no one hired me. All the money is gone. I have hypertension because my son is in such a condition.
Download the full report here (.pdf)