Chris Lieberman, FISM News
The State Department is seeking to launch an investigation into Myanmar’s military after an exposé by the AP detailing their systemic torture of prisoners.
The AP report includes photographic evidence, sketches, letters, and interviews with 28 former prisoners and three defected military officers that together detail the atrocities that Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, has committed since taking over the country in February. The full report, which does include graphic and disturbing images and descriptions, can be viewed here.
In response to the AP’s investigation, the State Department said, “We are outraged and disturbed by ongoing reports of the Burmese military regime’s use of ‘systematic torture’ across the country. Reports of torture in Burma must be credibly investigated and those responsible for such abuses must be held accountable.” Burma is the historic name for Myanmar.
According to the report, the Tatmadaw has killed more than 1,200 people since February, including at least 131 who were tortured to death at detention facilities. The military has also detained at least 9,000 people.
Details of Tatmadaw imprisonment include little or no food, overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and unrestricted torture, including on victims as young as 16. One prisoner told the AP, “The military tortures detainees, first for revenge, then for information.” The report details several attempts by the Tatmadaw to hide their crimes, including hooking up glucose drip lines to prisoners who were already dead and falsifying autopsies.
Tom Andrews, U.N. special rapporteur on Myanmar, said in a statement, “The AP’s investigation sheds important light on the scope and systemic nature of the junta’s criminal torture campaign. The confession of military personnel who directly witnessed detainees being tortured to death will be important for accountability efforts, as well as the AP’s uncovering of torture and interrogation center locations.” He then added that, in light of the military’s attempts to cover up their human rights abuses, the AP report is “very likely just the tip of the iceberg.”
Human rights groups demanded a response to the report. Susannah Sirkin, director of policy at Physicians for Human Rights, said, “The AP’s searing and expansive investigation sheds light into the black-box of the Myanmar military’s detention facilities. The Tatmadaw’s methodical torture regime – and attempts to hide it from public view – demand immediate global acknowledgement and action.”
Representative Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) called for Congress to pass the BURMA Act, which would authorize sanctions against Myanmar’s military. He said, “The disturbing reporting by the Associated Press on the sadistic torture and horrific violence committed by the Burmese military junta are sadly the latest in a long string of their atrocities, including genocide against the Rohingya,” a reference to the mass rape and killing of the Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
Fellow congressman Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) agreed, saying, “I condemn the Burmese military’s unconscionable treatment of detainees, allegedly including victims as young as 16 years old, in the strongest possible terms.”
According to the AP, the Biden administration is considering sanctions that would affect American and French oil and gas companies operating in the country, currently the military’s greatest source of revenue. However, the administration wants to ensure that the sanctions will hurt the Tatmadaw, not the people of Myanmar.