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Grisly Death Highlights Increasing Civilian Detentions in Myanmar’s Rakhine Conflict

Women wait outside a police station for their detained relatives to be released in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state in a file photoRFA video screenshot

A family in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state was ordered to collect the battered body of a 37-year-old man, days after he was detained by the army for suspected ties to the rebel Arakan Army — a victim of what rights workers say is a rising tide of arrests that has swept up hundreds of mostly young men.

Authorities say Soe Myint Tun, detained on July 11 by the army with five other ethnic Rakhine men suspected of links to AA, hanged himself while under interrogation. His family says he was an ordinary villager and that his body shows clear signs of torture. What is not in dispute is that he died in official custody.

Civilian detentions, a controversial Myanmar army practice during decades of wars with ethnic armies, are on the rise in the southern part of Rakhine, which had been relatively untouched by the armed conflict that has ravaged the northern section of the state for 19 months, those familiar with the situation told RFA.

A legal aid group based in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, counts 95 cases in which soldiers have arrested 308 individuals in Rakhine state for allegedly having connections to or conspiring with the AA. Most are young men in rural areas, often picked up on little evidence.

“Lately, there are more cases of arresting civilians merely on suspicions,” Myo Myat Hein, program director at the Thazin Legal Aid Group, told RFA’s Myanmar Service, adding that all the cases are all being tried in courts.

“These cases have increased in Ann and Kyaukphyu areas,” said the attorney, referring to two townships in the southern part of the coastal state. Myo Myat Hein reckons 500 or more Rakhine civilians are on the run to avoid arrest by the army.

Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told RFA on Wednesday that he did not have a figure for the total number of civilians who have been arrested and changed for allegedly having links to the AA.

The AA seeks autonomy for ethnic Rakhines in the state, a riverine land of 3.2 million people on the Bay of Bengal that is one of Myanmar’s poorest states. The AA, formed in 2009 with an estimated 8,000 fighters last year, was declared an illegal association and terrorist organization by the government in March.

Soe Myint Tun’s detention was among a series of recent arrests of Rakhine civilians in July, revealed to RFA in telephone interviews with relatives of the detained men.

July 11, soldiers from Myanmar Army Infantry Battalion Nos. 34 and 35 military troops raided Ah Lel Chaung village in Ramree township and arrested six villagers, said community administrator Maung Maung Shwe.

“They inspected all the houses in the village and took away the people they wanted for interrogation,” he said, adding that the soldiers had a list of the villagers’ names and national ID card numbers.

They deemed seven villagers suspicious, but only took six of them away and let one teenager go free, Maung Maung Shwe said. He described the men as ordinary farmers, fishermen, and road workers, with no known connections to the AA.

‘Beaten to death’

On Tuesday, three days after the six men were taken away, local police informed the relatives of Soe Myint Tun to collect his body, claiming that he hung himself while in custody.

“We were informed by the Ma-Ei police station through the Ramree township police station that Soe Myint Tun had died,” family member Kyaw Hlaing told RFA. “They asked the family members of all six detainees to come to the police station.”

“When we saw his body, it looked like he had been tied and beaten to death,” Kyaw Hlaing said. “His face and head were full of bruises and open wounds. It is impossible that he died from hanging. He must have died from torture and beatings.”

Other relatives and villagers who saw the body confirmed signs of beating.

Zaw Win, commander of the Ramree township police force told RFA that Soe Myint Tun did not die in that police station, but during an interrogation in next-door Taungup township.

Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said an autopsy would determine the truth about how Soe Myint Tun died.

The fate of other five men taken from Ah Lel Chaung village on July 11 remains unclear.

Rakhine patriotic songs

In another incident tracked by RFA on July 11, also in southern Rakhine state, Phyo Win Aung, 20, and Tun Myint Soe, 32, from were arrested after soldiers entered Saing Chon village in Kyaukphyu township and discovered information on their mobile phones that allegedly linked them to the AA, their relatives said.

Pho Win Aung’s mother, Ye Ye Win, said her son was arrested for having records of phone calls to friends who are AA members. He was naïve to answer the calls from his friends, she said, but was not involved with the ethnic armed group.

“As far as I know, he doesn’t have any connections to any organizations,” she told RFA.

“They said he had contacted AA members. He is just a young adult and has no consideration for the consequences of answering such phone calls. My son didn’t do anything wrong,” she said.

Similarly, soldiers arrested two villagers from Kyaukphyu’s Zin Chaung village on July 7, and their family members have not had any contact with them.

On the same day, Myanmar Army troops arrested two villagers from Lay Taung Chaung in Ramree township, saying they had violated the country’s Counter-Terrorism Law for having Rakhine patriotic songs on their phones, their relatives said.

Myanmar military spokesman Zaw Min Tun rejected the suggestion that soldiers had detained the villagers for having songs on their cell phones.

“Maybe they found indisputable evidence on their phones, such as evidence of having connections with the enemy or sending the military’s troops information to AA troops,” he said.

“Once we found such evidence, we proceeded to interrogate and charge the individuals lawfully,” he added. “But it is not true that the military arrested the civilians just for having Rakhine patriotic songs on the phone. These accusations are pure propaganda.”

The military also announced it had arrested seven villagers from Kyaukphyu’s Kat Thabyay village on June 6 on suspicion of having connections to the AA and charged them under the Counter-Terrorism Law on July 4.

Arbitrary arrests ‘not good’

Zaw Min Tun defended the military’s extended detentions, saying they were necessary because AA troops sometimes disguise themselves as civilians to more easily attack government troops or to detonate landmines.

“It is very challenging for us to distinguish between them [civilians and AA soldiers],” he said. “AA troops in civilian clothes attack us and flee to take shelter in the village.”

“We might have arrested some people for suspicious activities, but we alone cannot charge them. It is up to the corresponding police station and court,” he added.

Khin Maung Latt, a Rakhine lawmaker in Myanmar’s upper house of parliament who represents Rathedaung in the northern part of the state, said soldiers should allow the family members of those arrested to have access to them.

“Making arbitrary arrests is not good,” he told RFA. “They should keep these detainees in conditions mandated by the law. Their families should be informed. They are not guilty until the court proves them guilty. Their cases should be tried at court.”

The military arrests in Rakhine state follow a familiar pattern of arbitrary arrests, detention of ethnic civilians caught up over the years in other Myanmar war zones, including in Kachin and northern Shan states.

Rights groups have called for international action to halt the ill treatment of civilians, which at times includes forced labor and extortion, in various conflict zones to ensure that those responsible for serious crimes are held accountable.

A 2019 report by Amnesty International found that the Myanmar military in northern Shan state subjected civilians to arbitrary detention, often arresting men and boys on the basis of their ethnic identity and a perceived link with one of the many armed groups active in the state.

“As is the case in other conflict-affected areas of Myanmar, arrests and detention were often accompanied by torture and other ill-treatment,” said the report, based on interviews with nearly 90 people, including witnesses to rights violations, with incidents documented by satellite imagery and photographs.

“Soldiers beat, kicked, and punched detainees in order to obtain information about ethnic armed groups, or else to force detainees to ‘confess’ to being members of such groups,” it said.

Appropriate punishment

Zaw Zaw Tun, secretary of the Rakhine Ethnics Congress said 20 percent of the total 194 civilian deaths that his NGO has tallied during the 19-month conflict occurred while individuals were in military detention.

“Their bodies were found with injuries, so these deaths were related to the military’s interrogations,” he told RFA.

Aung Myo Min, executive director of the human rights education group Equality Myanmar, said certain mechanisms are needed to probe deaths that occur in military custody.

“We need certain mechanisms in place to investigate these deaths when they occur,” he said. “When it comes to the investigations, the investigators should be able to work independently, and all parties should cooperate with them.”

The major shortcoming in the current process is a lack of appropriate punishment for those who are found to have violated the rights of detainees or abused them once the investigations have been completed, Aung Myo Min said.

“Because of this weakness, the violators become more aggressive and unafraid of the consequences when arresting and torturing [other] detainees,” he said.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Copyright © 1998-2020, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036. https://www.rfa.org

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India News Brief

20 September 2020

COVID-19 Cases:5,308,014   Deaths: 85,619

COVID-19 At a Glance 

The new guidelines issued by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on 29 August

Metro rail will be allowed to operate with effect from 7thSeptember 2020 in a graded manner, by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA)/ Ministry of Railways (MOR), in consultation with MHA. In this regard, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) will be issued by MOHUA.

Social/ academic/ sports/ entertainment/ cultural/ religious/ political functions and other congregations will be permitted with a ceiling of 101 persons, with effect from 21st September 2020. However, such limited gatherings can be held with mandatory wearing of face masks, social distancing, provision for thermal scanning and hand wash or sanitizer.Open air theatres will be permitted to open with effect from 21stSeptember 2020.

Schools, colleges, educational and coaching institutions will continue to remain closed for students and regular class activity up to 30 September.
Online/distance learning shall continue to be permitted and shall be encouraged. However, following will be permitted, in areas outside the Containment Zones only, with effect from 21stSeptember 2020 for which, SOP will be issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW):

Cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres (excluding open air theatre) and similar places remain closed.

According to MHA directive, lockdown shall continue to be implemented strictly in the Containment Zones till 30th September, 2020.

COVID-19: Highlights 

Religious Places Visit: No Touching of Deity, No Sparkling of Holy Water No Prasada in Temples Wearing Mask Thermal Screening is a must 

Shopping Malls Visit: Elderly People With 65 Years of Age and Children Below 10 Years Are Advised to Stay at Home.

Restaurant and food courts in malls to operate at 50 per cent seating capacity with a mandatory distance of six feet between tables. No common prayer mats, physical offerings like prasad, or sprinkling of holy water, in places of worship. Age and health-based restrictions on stepping out of home. Masks to be mandatory, and the Aarogya Setu app 'recommended' for all.

Use of masks, thermal screening, social distancing and sanitisation, the guidelines  require people above 65 years of age, specially  people with comorbidities, pregnant woman, and children below the age of 10 years, to stay at home. Masks are mandatory at all times, including inside restaurants

Standard Operating Procedures issued by the Indian Health Ministry 

  • International air travel, Metro rail services not allowed 

Cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars and auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places; and, social/ political/ sports/ entertainment/ academic/ cultural/ religious functions/ and other large congregations will not allowed..

According to MHA guidelines, in Phase II, schools, colleges, educational/ training/ coaching institutions etc., will be opened after consultations with States and Union Territories.

There shall be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. No separate permission or approval or e-permit will be required for such movement

But  states have the freedom to decide on public movement.

How to identify Fake News or Messeges on Social Media 

Beware of Fake News and Fake Messages on Social Media

Always follow websites or social media platforms of traditional media outlets whether newspapers, magazines,Television News Channels or Radio Stations and authentic online only media outlets.They still maintain journalism excellence and stress on reportorial talent.On the other hand, fake news websites run by people with non journalism background and promote their own ideology with fake news and disinformations and obviously conspiracy theories.

But unfortunately mainstream media also manipulates news to establish their story angle.There were various instances when News papers and TV Channels promoted fake news/conspiracy theories in the form of out of context or manipulated pictures/videos and distorted informations.

Always check the URL of any website.Some fake news websites look like the orginal and popular one the same layout,Logo but if you check the URL you may find extra words like if the orginal website's URL is www.xxx.com the duplicate one might be www.xxx.com.co or something like that so first check the URL for authentic informations.

Check whether photos are original or photoshopped.Check Google images for authenticity.You can find help from Google Reverse Images search.

Check the news sources from other websites whether they picked up the story or not.

Whether the website layout is little bit clumsy and obviously grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes and excessive use of Sex related and sensational and hate stories.Because sex and hate sells.

Follow official websites relating to COVID-19

WHO Clarifies the disinformation about the virus:
COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates
Cold Weather and Snow can not kill the new coronavirus
Taking a Hot Bath Does Not Prevent COVID-19
COVID-19 Can not be transmitted through mosquito bites

Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth)

According to World Health Organization (WHO): Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water

Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth . If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover.

If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly as this may be due to a respiratory infection or other serious condition

Follow WHO guidelines

www.who.int

When you follow COVID-19 related news and messages from social media then check and recheck it before consuming it.Follow journalism mantra: if your mother says she loves you, check it out.

Most of the messages or informations quote different organizations like WHO, UNICEF, UNDP,Cambridge University  or other well known institutes,organizations or individual to authenticate the messeges.Check official websites of these organizations  if stories are repeated there

Forwarding messages from unknown sources or little known sources, it would be better to ignore it.

Check whether any logo like UNICEF or WHO or other organizations used in the messages which look similar to original logo.

These type of messages are full of Grammatical mistakes and spelling mistakes which are quite uncommon in original messages.

Don't rely on viral social media messages such as Coronavirus Infected Indian Currencies of Rs.500 and Rs.2,000 Notes Found, Muslim Man Spit in Food At Indian Restaurant.....Always Check Authentic Sources.

Some fake messages pretend to be real one like unofficial Twitter handle of international media organizations like BBC,CNN,Washinton Post, New York Times-check the official Twitter handles of media outlets.

You can identify fake messages if the message requests you to share it.

Beware of Fake News or Fake Photos/Videos Relating to Communal Hatred

Always check the fact checking sites if you have some doubts about the authenticity of any information or picture.

www.boomlive.in

www.altnews.in

https://check4spam.com

https://smhoaxslayer.com

www.factchecker.in

www.allsides.com

www.factcheck.org

www.newsbusters.org

www.politifact.com

www.snopes.com

www.propublica.org

The Same Method Applies to You Tube Videos Check the Source the credibility of the Source.To Check Fake You Tube Videos Check and Recheck the sources. Does the person have the legal right to the video posted? Did that person capture the video? Whether it has been altered?

But due to advancement of technology we can not really wipe out fake news.According to experts advent of  Artificial Intelligence(AI) some companies small or big one developing  technologies that can  lay digitally created script to anybody's voice  even words,sentences never said by the person.Even they a.re developing a technology which can create fake video footage,images,audios like originals.So be cautious! Rumour-mongers are active everywhere whether in physical world or cyber world.

For any further information relating to fake news and how-to search authentic informations from the internet write to us info@crimeandmoreworld.com or Whats App:+919073399779

COVID-19 Related Conspiracy Theories:
https://fsi.stanford.edu/news/china-covid19

 

 

Our COVID-19 Stories

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