Written by Staff Writer Atomatti Jacobson
A total of 18 Myanmar civilians were arrested by the military in Kachin State following a joint operation conducted by the military with local police, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
Rights groups from the UK and US have called on the military to end the arrests and probe the accusations.
The detainees, who are health workers who have been suspected of giving drugs and health advice to suspected insurgents, face a maximum of three years in prison if convicted, HRW said.
“The military can’t avoid responsibility for running amok in the most far-flung areas of Burma,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for HRW. “The Burmese military appears to have effectively turned this state into a criminal netherworld where domestic abusers and potential attackers are simply arrested without due process and jailed for what appear to be trumped-up charges.”
Burma, also known as Myanmar, is also known as Myanmar. It is currently the most isolated country in the world due to severe restrictions on its journalists, bloggers and social media users, making it difficult to gauge the depth of the military’s control over the civilian-led government.
Along with 15 others, patients are also being held at the military camp for five months — the maximum allowed under Burmese law — for taking off their clothes while giving medical treatment to security personnel and Buddhist priests, HRW said.
The civilians, including a Hindu monk, are accused of “selling drugs” to the military, according to the latest wave of arrests, which started with the arrest of the 18 health workers in January.
The Myanmar Army has denied the claims. Spokesman Colonel Myo Thu Soe dismissed the allegations on the eve of Tuesday’s protests, telling reporters that: “The general public knows about the government effort to tackle this malady. As for this case, it is simply a judicial issue.”
A UN report in June said that the country’s security forces used torture and indiscriminate airstrikes.
On Tuesday, the British Foreign Office had renewed its call for the “expeditious establishment of a commission of inquiry into alleged serious human rights violations by the Burmese military.”
“The President of Myanmar has the power to issue a decree establishing a commission of inquiry which would … investigate reports of serious human rights violations against the ethnic groups in the Kachin, Shan and Rakhine States,” the statement said.
The UN has called for “immediate and unimpeded access” to northern Myanmar, where a protracted conflict between government forces and rebel groups has displaced more than three million people.