Christians decry torture and detention
THERE IS GROWING CONCERN among ethnic Kachins Christians who in early July staged a peaceful protest in Myitkyina, northern Burma, calling for the release of a detained Kachin refugee, Lahtaw Brang Shawng.
At the time of the July 6 mobilization, protesters claimed that Brang Shawng had been brutally tortured by security forces for three straight days, and new reports indicate his treatment and condition have deteriorated badly.
Burmese authorities arrested Brang Shawng, accusing him of being a captain in the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), a rebel group which is currently fighting government troops in northern Burma.
Ze Nyoi, the wife of Brang Shawng, said, “Police punched, kicked and beat him for three days and nights. They forced him to confess to being a KIA captain. Brang Shawng is not a KIA Captain, since he is an uneducated person, just a farmer.
“He was beaten brutally around his head. His nose was bleeding and his left eye was red,” she said. “When I saw him he looked traumatized. He is terrified of the police.”
Ze Nyoi said she took part in the demonstration, holding a placard which read: “Release my husband Brang Shawng!” She maintained that her husband was an innocent victim displaced by the fighting.
Protesters included Kachin students in school uniform, some wearing Kachin traditional costume, singing hymns and praying for the release of their colleague, Brang Shawng. Other posters read: “We want peace. We want freedom.”
Lahpai Ja Naw, a pastor who helped organize the demonstration, said that Brang Shawng “was detained and tortured unlawfully.
After being tortured by Burmese police officers, Brang Shawng has difficulty hearing from his left ear. He is unable to eat properly and is in pain when swallowing. His wife is worried by his abnormal behavior.
His trial continued last week, but observers already believe a guilty verdict is inevitable. Judge Myint Htoo has so far refused defense requests that Brang Shawng receive proper medical treatment for the injuries he sustained during interrogation.
Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) also known as AAPP released a statement on July 13 calling on the authorities to allow Brang Shawng to receive an immediate proper medical treatment.
“It is unconscionable that one of the nation’s courts is prohibiting a defendant from seeking medical relief from serious allegations of ill treatment and torture. Denying urgent health care is like torturing a person again,” said Bo Kyi, Joint-Secretary of the AAPP.
According to Brang Shawng's lawyer, Mar Khar, Military Affairs Security officers handcuffed and tied him up with ropes. Brang Shawng was then tortured in an effort to extract a forced confession. His cheeks were burned with hot knives. His thighs were carved with knives, and the skin on his calves shows evidence of extensive peeling.
“I am very appalled to hear such kind of torture. If U Thein Sein [Burmese President] really wants Burma to reform, he needs to enact a zero tolerance policy for torture,” said Bo Kyi.