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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – Myanmar security forces have entered and the lampposts have turned black. House after house, people turn off their lights.
Snuggled up inside her home in Yangon, 19-year-old Shwe dared to peek out the window. A flashlight flashed and a male voice ordered him not to look.
Two shots rang out. Then a man’s cry: “HELP!” When the army trucks finally rolled out, Shwe and his family went out in search of his 15-year-old brother.
“I could feel my blood pounding,” she said. “I had a feeling he could be taken.
Myanmar security forces across the country are arresting and forcibly removing thousands of people, especially boys and young men, in an attempt to quash a three-month uprising against a military takeover. In most cases, the families of those taken do not know their whereabouts, according to an Associated Press analysis of more than 3,500 arrests since February. UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency, is aware of approximately 1,000 cases of children and young people who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, many of whom do not have access to a lawyer or their lawyer. family.
It’s a technique the military has long used to instill fear and crush pro-democracy movements. Boys and young men are abducted from homes, businesses and streets. Some end up dying. Many are imprisoned and sometimes tortured. Many others are missing.
“We have definitely entered a situation of mass enforced disappearances,” said Matthew Smith, co-founder of human rights group Fortify Rights, which has gathered evidence of the deaths of detainees in custody. “We document and see widespread and systematic arbitrary arrests.”
The PA withholds Shwe’s full name to protect her from army reprisals.
The car store in the Shwe district was a regular meeting place for local boys. On the night of March 21, his brother had gone there to relax as he usually did.
As Shwe approached the store, she saw that it had been ransacked. Frantic, she and her father searched the building for any sign of their beloved boy.
But he was gone and the ground was covered in blood.
Since the Myanmar military took control in February, the faces of the missing have flooded the internet. Recently, photos of young people detained by security forces have also started circulating online and on military-controlled television, their faces bloodied, with clear marks of beatings and possible torture.
At least 3,500 people have been arrested since the start of the military takeover, more than three-quarters of whom are men, according to an analysis of data collected by the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, which monitors deaths and arrests. Of the 419 men whose ages were recorded in the group’s database, nearly two-thirds are under 30 and 78 are adolescents.
Nearly 2,700 of the detainees are being held in unknown locations, an AAPP spokesperson said.
“The military are trying to turn civilians, strikers and children into enemies,” said Ko Bo Kyi, co-secretary of the AAPP. “They think if they can kill boys and young men then they can kill the revolution.”
After receiving questions from the Associated Press, the military, known as Tatmadaw, called a Zoom press conference, in which it called the AAPP a “groundless organization,” suggested. that his data was inaccurate and denied that security forces are targeting young men.
“Security forces don’t stop based on gender and age,” Army spokesman Captain Aye Thazin Myint said. “They only detain anyone who is in the process of rioting, protesting, disturbing or taking any action to do so.”
Some of those who were torn up by the security forces were protesting. Some have ties to the rival military political party. Others are taken for no discernible reason. They are typically charged with section 505 (A) of the Penal Code, which partially criminalizes any comment that “arouses fear”.
Myanmar human rights activist Wai Hnin Pwint Thon is intimately familiar with the Tatmadaw’s tactics. His father, famous political activist Mya Aye, was arrested in an uprising against the military regime in 1988, and the family waited months before learning he was in prison.
He was arrested again in this year’s military takeover. It took two months before his family found out that he was being held in the notorious Insein Prison in Yangon.
“I can’t imagine families of young people aged 19, 20, 21 in prison… We are so worried and we are used to this situation,” she said. “I try to keep my hopes up, but the situation is getting worse by the day.”
The army’s fear tactics have proven to be extremely effective. Across the country, locals take turns watching at night, banging pots and pans, or yelling at neighbors on the street if soldiers or police are spotted.
“I’m more afraid of being arrested than of being shot,” said a 29-year-old man who was arrested, beaten and released, and who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid reprisals. “I have a chance to die immediately with one hit. But being arrested, I’m afraid they’ll torture me.
Back in Yangon, Shwe tried to convince himself that the blood on the shop floor was not his brother’s.
He and three other young men from the store had been taken away. Neighbors said security forces may have targeted the boys because they spotted someone inside the store with a steel slingshot.
At 2 a.m., a policeman called to say that Shwe’s brother was in a military hospital and had been shot in the hand.
Shwe says his family told the police that his brother was underage. But on March 27, they learned that her brother and the other three had been charged with possession of weapons and sentenced to three years in prison.
They got a quick phone call with him when he was first hospitalized, and nothing since. Shwe remembers hearing his brother say to their distraught mother, “I’m fine.
Shwe has no idea if this is still true. She worries about her brother, a calm boy who loves to play games. She is also worried about their mother, who cries and cries, and for their father, who suffers for his only son.
For now, they can do little more than wait and hope: that he won’t be beaten. That he will get a pardon. May the people of Myanmar feel safe again soon.
“Even though we’re all in distress, we try to look on the bright side so that at least we know where he is,” she says. “We’re lucky he was only kidnapped.”
Gelineau reported from Sydney.