Arbitrary Detention and

Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances



On the one hand, military tribunals are no longer mass-sentencing civilians. However, the other hand doesn’t seem to be any fairer when looked at in detail. The military has been given de facto summary powers. Judges are hand-picked by SLORC and the judicial system on the whole lacks any distance from the regime, but an obvious outgrowth of SLORC. This lack of impartiality and independence means that many trials are unfair, and thus the sentences are illicit, making many detentions arbitrary.


While the military junta has claimed that it set free to 1,700 political prisoners, names were not released who these people were. Therefore, no independent verification that these people were indeed arrested on political charges could be made. What criteria were used to decide who should be released, or were these releases unconditional, no one could confirm. The releases seemed as arbitrary as the original arrests themselves.


SLORC itself publicly commented in 1992 that those political detainees released were people who no longer posed a threat to the state, and that follows for those recently released from custody; however, a number of key leaders remain victims of arbitrary detention, and new political prisoners are receiving harsher sentencing, as well as the fact that virtually no one charged with a political offence has been acquitted. Trials appear to be predetermined, trial procedures being only summary, and not to impartially judge a person’s fate according to the law.


Meanwhile, disappearances continue to be difficult to record due to both strict control by SLORC of communication with inside Burma, and the fact that disappearances can rarely be traced. People are taken from their beds in the middle of the night, or picked up on the street by police and military, but seldom charged or publicly acknowledged to be in custody. Porters remained the largest uncountable numbers of disappeared people under these circumstances.




Insein prison is situated near downtown Rangoon. It has been the site for political detention since British colonial rule. The prison is still being used by Burma's totalitarian regime; both the BSPP and the present SLORC have kept and continue to keep their critics there. Since 1992 SLORC has released over 2,000 political prisoners, including some prominent inmates. However, according to certain international human rights organisations and inside sources there are over 500 political prisoners still being detained. But no one can really confirm these figures. SLORC is still secretive on this matter. A recent report from Rangoon revealed that 96 students who had been arrested in the 1989 and 1991 protests in Rangoon are still being detained in Insein's separate gaols. They are not in the main gaol. Nobody knows how many students are still detained in the main gaol. The students in the separate gaol were sentenced to between 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment. Some are as young as 18 years of age; others are high school students. The source in Rangoon said that they will not be released in the near future but will continue to be detained. This is despite SLORC's recent amnesty program. [source: Burma Issues and Burmese contacts]




U Khin Zaw Win (44, dental surgeon) was a graduate student who worked for the UNICEF in Rangoon from 1991 to 1993. He was the first victim on the recent series of arrests and was arrested on 2 July at Mingaladon International Airport in Rangoon as he was about to board a plane to Singapore. He was studying in Singapore for a master’s degree on a Singaporean scholarship. He returned to Burma in order to prepare an academic paper on the current situation in Burma, for a thesis he was working on for his post-graduate studies at Singapore University. He was arrested as anti-SLORC pamphlets were allegedly found in his luggage. He was brought to an MIS office on Kaba Aye Road and later on transferred to Insein Prison where, when he was allowed to meet with his wife, she was blindfolded during the entire meeting.


U Sein Hla Oo (56, journalist and an elected MP of NLD) is a graduate of Rangoon University, former film critic, and editor of the Botathaung newspaper where he wrote under the pen name Maung Nwe Oo. While he was in the university, he worked as the university correspondent for both the Botataung and Tun Daily newspapers, and was also a member of Rangoon University Student Union. He participated in the 7 July Uprising in 1962 against the coup of Ne Win's regime. In 1988 he won the D.J. Jefferson Award from the East-West Centre in Honolulu. He played an active role in the 1988 democracy protests and was head for Strike Committee of the Journals and Magazines Group. Sacked following the SLORC coup, he joined the NLD and became a member of the Central Information and Press Department. Briefly arrested in February 1990, he won the seat for Insein (2) in May 1990 election but was subsequently arrested for the second time on 23 October 1990 and sentenced to 10 years' hard labour under section 124 of the Penal Code for "withholding information relating to High Treason". He was sentenced in 1991 to 10 years in prison in connection with the establishment of the NCGUB and was freed in 1992 under SLORC's amnesty programme. He was re-arrested on 4 August 1994 with the allegation of having links with democratic opposition groups and giving anti-SLORC information to foreign media and diplomats.


Khin Maung Swe (aka Maung Ye Kyaw) was born on 20 July 1942, son of U Maung Aye and Daw Tin Kyi in Ngathai Chaung, Irrawaddy Division. He successfully passed his matriculation examination from ABM Mission School in 1960, and graduated from Rangoon University in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science (Geology). In the same year he worked as geologist on the official staff of the Myanma Corporation, being promoted to second official in 1974 and senior official in 1982. He further studied Oil Development and Oil Exploration and Drilling training in the USA in 1968 and a training for the prevention of explosion of oil wells in Singapore in 1978. During the uprising, he was secretary of Labour Union at Myanma Oil Corporation (Head Office). Afterwards, he became an active Member of the Central Executive Committee of the NLD, as well as Chairman of the Central Information and Press Department. In May 1990, he was elected representative for Sanchaung constituency, Rangoon Division. He lived with his wife Daw Win Win Aye, a bank accountant, on 18 Pyarpon Street, Sanchaung Township.


Daw San San Nwe, writer, member of NLD Central Committee, was a well-known journalist and known under the pen name San San Nwe Tharrawaddy. She was arrested in 1989 with the allegation of insisting unrest and released in 1990. She and her daughter, Myat Mo Mo Tun, were re-arrested on 4 August 1994 with the allegation of having links with Democratic opposition groups and giving anti-SLORC information to foreign media and diplomats. Myat Mo Mo Tun was a computer science student at Rangoon University and also part time compositor at a printing press.


Thierry Grandidier and Nick Nostiz arrived on May 19 and May 23 respectively, with the intention of holding a “one-man” protest of Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention. On 27 May 1994 at 4 p.m. in front of the City Hall near Sule Pagoda, Grandidier stood with a banner which read, “Release Aung San Suu Kyi”. Although no police or soldiers stopped him, his presence started to draw a number of passers-by, estimated at around 100 Burmese. Nostiz urged onlookers, without success, to disperse for fear of their arrests. "He [Granidier] told them to 'Go away. Don't stop.' But people just stayed on and some even clapped their hands," Nostiz reported. "We planned it [the protest] as a symbolic gesture. We did not want any Burmese to be arrested or involved, because nobody cares when they are arrested or tortured." After 15 minutes, a civilian approached Grandider, snatched the banner and ran into City Hall where government officials and soldiers were stationed. Nostiz then left for a local hotel while Grandidier started to walk towards the nearby US embassy, where he had left his passport for safe-keeping. A now larger crowd of people followed him. Several people were then arrested, handcuffed and taken away in a military truck from in front of the US embassy by some “civilians and officers in olive uniforms”. The fate of these people, reported by Amnesty International to be seven people, is unknown. [source: AI, KHRG, The Nation]


[see also under “Eye-witness Accounts”, interview 1, 7, 13, 24-26, 28-29, 38, 41, 57, 65, 67-68, 70, 73, 79-81, 86-88, 93, 97, 106-107, 109-112, 114, 117-118, 127, 129, 134-135, 137, 139-143]


List of Incidents


In 1994 there was a festival in Ma Sein Village in Mawleik and the SLORC troops there authorised gambling. During the festival, it was reported that innocent villagers were arbitrarily beaten by SLORC troops. Over 20 people were confined and fettered in stocks. Each detainee was forced to pay a fine of 250 Ks before detention and another 250 Ks for their release. A porter fee in Mawleik ranges around 80 Ks per household. [source: ABSDF]


Arbitrary Detention Leads to Displacement


On 7 January, Bn Comdr Myat Soe of IB 60 arrested village headman Tee Phar Nyo of Nyaung Tan Village, Kyauk Kyi Township, Pegu Division. On 14 January, another village headman Saw Poe Poe was captured with his bullock cart and sent to Kyauk Kyi. In fear of SLORC troops’ further arrests and torture, on 15 January, the villagers moved to Tha Ye Silaw, Kha Keh Kho, Poe Loe No Phoe and Natha Kwin villages.


On 12 January at about 7 p.m. during the Karen New Year celebrations, SLORC troops from IB 60 came to Po Lo No Po Village [Burmese: Kyun Gone Village] in Kyauk Kyi Township, Pegu Division, and surrounded N—’s house. They tied up her father and her at gunpoint and dragged them outside, where she was tied to a mango tree and surrounded by 5 armed soldiers. They interrogated her about her husband and threatened her all night.


[Her husband S— was a cattle trader and had run his business in the area controlled by the KNU since November 1993. Because of his business in that area, SLORC troops accused him of having contact with KNU and tried to arrest him since then. Officer Win Oo from IB 60 sent an order via the village headman calling Naw Ray Say to come to his outpost. When she arrived, she was interrogated about the whereabouts of her husband and forced to give him 1,500 Ks and 2 ducks. He then released her on her sworn bond not to run away.]


The next day they released her father but took her to In Net Village, and then brought to MIS office in Kyauk Kyi. They detained her there and forced to cook for them for 2 days. They asked her about her husband and she explained them she didn’t know where he was and that the accusation on her husband was not true. After 2 days they took her to IB 60 headquarters and put her under guard. She said that while there, she saw about 30 other villagers from nearby villages who were held. The next day she was released after signing a bond.


On arriving home, she learned that her relatives had to pay 6,600 Ks and 3 bags of rice for her release. She also found that while she had been gone the soldiers destroyed her house and driven her relatives out of the village. She took her children and lived in a hut in the forest for temporary shelter, and then moved to a safer place to escape from further ill-treatment by SLORC. Most of her relatives moved to other villages as well.


The following civilians from Naw Yu Village in Kyauk Kyi Township were arrested and imprisoned by Capt Khin Maung Oo of IB 60 in January 1994. All of these villagers are now imprisoned in Kyauk Kyi Township. SLORC troops were threatened with execution if their families could not pay 20,000 Ks for each of them:


Name                                   Sex         Age         Name                                   Date of Arrest

1) Saw Soe Win                  Male      20           Saw Hla Maung                 12/1/94

2) Saw Maung Ni              Male      46           Saw Aye Maung                 13/1/94

3) Naw Sher Ma Ma          Female   20           Saw Maung Ni                   16/1/94

4) Naw Myit                       Female   50           Saw Pai                                16/1/94

5) Naw Mi Thein                              Female   25           Saw Koe Toe                        16/1/94

6) Saw Lar Set                    Male      30           San Min                              16/1/94

7) Saw Toe Dee                   Male      35           Saw Aung Htoo                  16/1/94

8) Saw Maung Thaung     Male      40           Saw Maung Shwe              16/1/94

9) Saw Win Maung           Male      24           Saw Maung Karr                              16/1/94

10) Saw Ber Lar                 Male      22           Saw Maung Karr                              16/1/94


[source: KNU]


On 22 January, 2nd Column led by Maj Thu Soe and Maj Soe Win from LIB 120, under the command of LID 33 forced, the villagers from Htaw Kalaw Khee Village in Thaton District to cook for the porters at gunpoint.


On 2 February, IB 60 commanded by Capt Nyi Soe arrested Saw Cho Cho (son of Saw Chit Ngwe of Tor Por Village, Kyauk Kyi Township). The victim was accused of being an informer for the KNU and was severely beaten and kicked with military boots. The SLORC troops tried to force him to confess to being a Karen informer, but Saw Cho Cho refused. He was taken to Kyauk Kyi Town and thrown in prison. His parents were then informed that their son would be released if they paid 20,000 Ks, but his parents are poor farmers and cannot raise the money. Saw Cho Cho is still detained in Kyauk Kyi Prison. [source: KNU]


On 10 February, Maj Thaung Sein, commander of 2nd Column of IB 55, arrested local people in Klaw Mee Deh Village, Taungoo District. The villagers were tied up and detained in a small room of a house before being press-ganged into porterage.


On 20 February, IB 24 troops commanded by Capt Thein Zan arrested Saw Po Khin (male), Saw Pah Bu (male), Saw Win Kyaing (male), Maung Shwe Win (male) and Naw Kha Ri (female), all from Koh Kyah Tai Village. The soldiers accused them of being insurgents and laying landmines. They were all severely beaten, and were only released when the village headman vouched for them and they had paid ransom of 4,500 Ks each. [source: KNU]


On 7 March, 2nd Column of IB 99 arrested 24 traders and captured 48 cows at Htee Khee in Taungoo District.


On 8 April, four villagers from Nat Ywa Village, Taungoo District – U Tun, Than Lwin, Win Sein and Poe Lon – were accused of not fulfilling demands and were arrested by the police officer in charge and his policemen from Htan Ta Bin Police Station. They were detained for 4 days and were forced to pay a ransom for their release set by the police officer in this case, not a court of law. Moreover, on 9 April, Maung Aye and another villager from Nat Ywa Village, Taungoo District were charged with the same case, detained for 24 hours and forced to pay 2,500 Ks ransom. [source: KYO]


Ko Ba Tun (aka Noor Mohammed, 32) was a graduate from Mandalay University and a well-known social worker in Maungdaw proper. He was the son of Ali Hussein, an ex-police officer; his father-in-law was Hajee Abul Khair, also an ex-police officer and MP. Despite Ko Ba Tun’s background, this prominent citizen and father of four children was arrested by MIS in May 1994 and since his fate has not been known along with those 170 Rohingya intellectuals still under detention by SLORC. Until today, the authorities have not sent them before the court with any specific charges nor their relatives have been allowed to see them. Sources presume that all these persons were tortured to death while in custody. [source: MOA]


On 21 June, SLORC troops from IB 263, led by Maj Htay Aung under the command of Southern Command, arrested traders at Lae Say Naw Pass located between Khu Mee Deh and Leh Kalar Deh in Taungoo Township. Each trader was forced by the SLORC soldiers to pay 200,000 Ks for their release. [source: KYO]


On 6 August, Thay Sa Paut Thanminee (clearly an alias which means “Treacherous Steel”) and SLORC soldiers based at Ka Ma San Village came together to Mee Chaung Aye Village and captured Maw Ta Lay, Saw Kla Hla and village headman Saw Naing Naing and demanded money from them. Saw Kla Hla gave them 6,000 Ks so they released him, but the other two men were tortured brutally. [source: KYO]


On 7 August at night, in Monywa 6 people who were former leaders of the strike committee and were earlier detained, found themselves arbitrarily re-arrested by SLORC troops. 2 detainees came from Aung Chan Thar Quarter of Monywa. [source: ABSDF]


Maung Kyaw Thein, Chief of the News and Information Committee of SNDSA in Thingankyune Township, found it necessary to flee to the Thai-Burmese border after IB 3 placed him under arrest at his home on the night of 9 August. When he had been released from arrest he immediately fled under threat of his life. [source: ABSU]


On 11 August, in Papun District, SLORC troops from LIB— arrested 21 villagers from 3 different villages including men, women, and even 2 boys only 3 years old. They were taken and held prisoner at the battalion's camp and interrogated by an intelligence captain. The captain and battalion leaders demanded 2 guns and 1 walkie-talkie, and said that if the other villager didn't get these for them then they would kill all 21 who were held hostage at their camp. The other villagers were afraid they would be killed, so they pooled their resources and effort and went searching for guns and a walkie-talkie. They finally managed to obtain them and gave the purchased goods to the soldiers on 27 August. Only then were the villagers released. The following 21 people were arrested and held:


No.         Name                    Age         Sex


1)           Naw A—              41           Female

2)           Naw B—              16           Female

3)           Saw C—                              35           Male

4)           Pu D—                  52           Male

5)           Pa E—                   29           Male

6)           Naw F—               30           Female

7)           Pa G—                  36           Male

8)           Naw H—              28           Female

9)           Saw I—                29           Male

10)         Pa J—                    48           Male

11)         Naw K—              40           Female

12)         Naw L—               42           Female

13)         Naw M—             48           Female

14)         Naw N—              38           Female

15)         Saw O—               3            Male

16)         Pa P—                   52           Male

17)         Saw Q—               30           Male

18)         Naw R—              42           Female

19)         Pa S—                   3            Male

20)         Saw T—                              32           Male

21)         Saw U—               40           Male


One of the prisoners who escaped (most of the others were still being detained) told the following story on 26 August: SLORC soldiers from 1st Column of LIB— came to V— Village and captured me together with six other villagers, including two women. They took us outside the village, tied us all up with the same rope and covered our faces. They kept the two women together. They took all of us to W— Army Camp and beat us up, asking us to tell them where the gun and the walkie-talkie were. We told them we didn't know anything. The soldier who interrogated us was X—. Everybody was tortured. Later they released the headman and sent an order with him for all our wives to bring rice for us. When my wife brought rice for me, they captured her as well. Anything the women brought other than rice was taken and eaten by the soldiers themselves. They ordered the headman to go find a gun and a walkie-talkie, but he didn't dare go so they told two of us to go along with him. The three of us went back to our village and then we ran away, and then I met you gathering information. My wife is still on their camp. I don't know what will happen to all the people there [see also below “Selected SLORC Orders”, order *]. [Source: KHRG]


On 9 September, Bn Comdr Thay Soe of IB 63 went to Pe Le Naw Village and captured two villagers; Aung Tha Nyunt (47) and Saw Aye Kyaw (46). Thay Soe took the two men to his camp and detained them there. On 13 September, the soldiers took them from the camp to kill them. Aung Tha Nyunt managed to escape and survived. It is not yet known whether the soldiers killed Saw Aye Kyaw or not.


On 17 September, SLORC troops from IB 62 led by Deputy Bn Comdr Maj Ohn Myint took a young monk, who was approximately 25 years old, from the monastery in Kaw Bain Village, Kawkareik Township, Mon State, and accused him of having contact with Mon rebels, forced him to disrobe and then arrested him There has been no news about him since then. According to the villagers there, the victims was ordained one year ago after being arrested by Thai police, when he was charged with illegal working in Thailand and thereafter sent to the notorious IDC in Bangkok, to be later repatriated by Thai authorities to Halockhani refugee camp. He stayed at the refugee camp for some time and then went back to his native village, Kaw Bain. Local people strongly believed that he was under suspicion by the SLORC troops of having contact with NMSP, forced to disrobe and arrested on the basis of staying at Halockhani Mon refugee camp for some time. [source: CPPSM/DPNS/NLD-LA/NMSP]


On 17 September, SLORC troops from IB 62 led by Bn Comdr Ohn Myint, arrested the secretary of Nai Phu Village and his wife, and tortured them without questioning. The troops also took away the property of the secretary and smashed a video machine. Nai Chit Pale from Kaw Pauk Village, Nai Yu from Kaw Tun Village and Nai Hla Sein and Nai Hlaing from Kha Byaw Village were also subjected to torture by IB 62 without any reason. [DPNS/NLD-LA]


On 2 October, Kyaw Pu and his brother-in-law Lar Khao from Htee Mu Htan Village were arrested between Mae Ta Neh and Htee Mu by a SLORC military column from LIB 355 while the villagers were searching for their lost elephant. They were asked whether they knew someone called Ki Gay. When the villagers said they knew him, the troops continued to ask them whether Ki Gay has a walkie-talkie and the type of his weapon. When the victims said they did not know, they were accused of being spies sent by Ki Gay and subjected to various forms of torture for 2 days. Since the victims were poor, they could not afford for proper treatment as there is no clinic in the area, and they suffered continual pain for many days. [source: Bar Zi Tan]


On 26 November, over 100 SLORC troops from LIB 410 led by Capt Min Nyo and Coy Comdr Capt Than Wai arrived at Kaw Zar Village in Ye Township, arrested the villagers without any reason and took away their property. The victims were Nai Nyan Thein, Nai Shi, Nai Pra and their families. SLORC troops took away 10,000 Ks in cash and valuable property from Nai Nyan Thein’s house, 15,000 Ks in cash, furniture and other property from Nai Shi’s house and 5,000 Ks in cash and other valuable things from Nai Pra’s house. Nai Nyan Thein and Nai Shi were forced into portering by SLORC troops. [source: DPNS/NLD-LA/NMSP]


Maj Ohn Myint’s IB 62 troops arrested Chairman Nai Kha Leh and Secretary Nai Kane from Kyaik Ka Bin Village on 27 November, Chairman Nai Ye Kyaw and Secretary Nai Nyunt Win from Kyauk Ye Dwin Village on 28 November and Chairman Nai Hta Lon and Secretary Nai Mate on 1 December respectively. Those village leaders were accused of having contact with the NMSP and subjected to various forms of torture. Now they have been released but had to receive medical treatment. Local medical officers remarked that some of them had better take a rest for one month because of torture. [NMSP]


Starting on 27 November until 1 December, SLORC troops from IB 62 led by Deputy Bn Comdr Maj Ohn Myint went into Kyaik Ga Bin, Kyauk Ye Twin, Kaw Kha Lein and Mon Hlaing villages, Kawkareik Township, Karen State, arrested 12 innocent Mon civilians, accused them of being sympathisers of the Mon rebels and committed torture while conducting interrogations. Of the victims, 3 were headmen of those villages and the others were; Chairmen Nai Naung, Nai Kyiand and Nai Dauk Bu from Mon Hlaing Village, Chairman Nai Kha Lae, Nai Kane and Nai Kyaing from Kyaik Ga Bin Village and Nai Mon Kyi, Chairman Nai Ye Kyaw, Nai Kun Jit and Nai Nyunt Win from Kyauk Ye Twin Village. The last person is secretary of Kyauk Ye Twin Village. According to reliable sources, all the victims were subjected to fatal beatings and torture by the SLORC troops. They were beaten with rifle butts, kicked with combat boots and punched. In addition, the victims’ heads were covered with a plastic bag and water was poured on them, their whole bodies except their heads were buried, while interrogated and beaten. The soldiers then threatened to kill the victims when they did not confess what the troops accused them of. The victims were released only after being subjected to fatal beatings and torture by the troops. [CPPSM]


Moreover, LID 410 troops led by Bn Comdr Ye Myint penetrated Kaw Zar Village in the evening on 1 January 1995 and took 12 young females with them to Paukpinkwin Village, Yebyu Township. The victims were Mi Mu (15), Mi Khaing (17), Mi Mee (13), Mi Kyi Htay (16), Mi Thu (18), Mi Cho Lay (18), Mi Aye Khaing (18), Mi Mar Lwin (13), Mi Hnaung (20), Mi Kha Baik Klu (20) and Mi Kun Shi (38). [DPNS/NLD-LA/NMSP]