By Rohingya Mirror & M.S. Anwar
(Rohingya Vision) — Many Rohingya prisoners released from prisons under President Then Sein’s amnesty recount the horror stories they had gone through in the secret-walled cells of the Buthidaung Prison.
Myanmar’s armed forces arrested hundreds of innocent Rohingyas, adults and children alike, under the false allegations of inciting violence in June 2012. They were subsequently sent to Buthidaung Prison without any judicial trials.
They have routinely gone through many gruesome phases in the prison, beginning with humiliations, followed by extreme tortures, hungers and often, many of them ending with facing deaths. Later, those survived the tortures were handed lengthy jail terms with extremely unfair and unjust trials.
Some of them were released from the prison under the amnesty of President Thein Sein on August 31, 2015. And those that are still in the prison have been going through more or less horrible and brutal treatments, according to the statements by many ex-prisoners.
The whole account of the procedures of the horror stories has been as follows.
the Arbitrary Arrests
The Myanmar state-sponsored and politically motivated violence against Rohingyas began in June 2012. The extremist section of Rakhine Buddhist society in collaboration with Myanmar’s armed forces such as Hlun Htein (Security Forces), NaSaKa (the now disbanded Border Security Force) and the military attacked the Rohingya villages, burnt down their homes, looted their properties killed thousands of them, raped hundreds of girls/women and internally displacing more than 140,000 Rohingya people.
However, the Myanmar government and the domestic media put all the blames on the Rohingyas of inciting the violence to avoid international criticism and the punishments. Therefore, the authorities arrested hundreds of innocent Rohingyas by means of deceits and traps especially in Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships.
The authorities cum armed forces –the Police, the Hlun Htein (Security Forces), the NaSaKa (the now disbanded Border Security Force) and the military along with the Rakhine terrorists– used various methods to carry out the arrests.
- The administrations of Rohingya villages in the regions summoned and gathered their respective villagers for meetings, either in their offices or in the premises of the schools, on pretext of finding out solutions to end the violence. Meanwhile, they raided the places, rounded up the people attending meeting and arrested all of them including olds and minors. For examples, many cases took place in Maungdaw around 2:30PM on June 23.
- Religious premises such as Mosques and Schools were besieged by them and the devotees were arrested.
- Their villages were besieged, their homes were raided and the people were arrested.
- They were arrested while shopping in the markets or running their shops.
- They were arrested when they went to the government offices to get permissions and do other government-related works.
After the Arrests
After the arrests, the Burmese military took them on their vans. When they reached to the highways, they got off the vans and handed the arrestees over to the Police and the 969-members, Rakhine extremist youths, waiting stand-by.
The police and the Rakhine extremists forced the people to lay on the vans, piled one on another like ‘bricks or woods’ and covered them with polythene or plastic sheets. And then, they got on the vans and stood on the piled people covered with the sheets like people usual do on the piled rice-sacks while the vans were being driven.
They, then, beat and whacked the people with force using rods and sticks from above in order to make the surface above the sheets even like the road surfaces are flattened using Rollers.
When the (piled) people were taken down from the vans after reaching to the Maungdaw Police station and, their bodies were covered with bloods all over like they were soaked ‘Blood Pools’ from a long time. As they were heavily injured on their bodies, hands and eyes etc, they were simply unable to move further.
The police and the terrorist youths carried them like the sacks of the rice and threw them into the police’s detention cells in Maungdaw.
Imprisonments without Court Trials
The arrestees were detained in the police’s detention cells in Maungdaw for one night and were directly sent to Buthidaung prison next morning without any court hearings. And then, they were confined in separate and secret chambers with six-foot high walls to prevent other prisoners from seeing them.
Physical and Psychological Tortures in the Prison
In the chambers, the jail police and some muscular Rakhine terrorist youths forced them to lie on the floors, stepped them with their boots and walked to and fro on their bodies. When the prisoners shouted out of pains, they whacked them with rods (like people do when they kill snakes). When they beat the prisoners, they didn’t care where it hits, faces, heads, butts or any other parts of the bodies. If anyone tried to raise their heads, they threw sticks and rods at them with force; hit them with marble balls using catapults.
When the torturers got tired, they still forced the prisoners to lie down on the floors with their faces facing to the ground. They often used to change group by group to torture the prisoners. They kept the prisoners without any foods or meals. If any of the prisoners was muscular and strong, five people teamed up to torture him separately from others. They tortured the prisoners like these every 15 minutes 14 hours a day for continuous two weeks.
Many prisoners remained flattened on the floor for two weeks receiving heavy injuries on their heads; losing their eyes or eye sights; with their hands and legs broken; and with their skins were torn off and fouled to emit bad odour.
More than 10 prisoners died within the two weeks due to the brutal treatments and the tortures.
After Two Weeks in the Prison
After two weeks and on the day 15 day in the prison, the jail authorities started to provide the prisoners two cups of cooked rice twice a day. However, they were not on the plates but on the floors. The jail authorities forced the prisoners to bend down to the ground to make them eat the rice with their tongues like dogs do.
“You are not human beings but animals. So, you have to eat like animals. So, eat like dogs do,” said an ex-prisoner referring to what the jail authorities used to say.
The prisoners didn’t have any clothes besides the clothes they had on their bodies when they were brought into the prisons. They too tore off as they were kicked like balls and beaten like animals. So, they were kept nude all the day and night.
Although the jail authorities stopped beating from the day 15, they forced each of the prisoners, nude and heavily injured, to stay in Squatting Position or Stress Position facing one another for two hours twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Around 500 prisoners were kept in this nude condition and treated in this cruel way for one month.
Unfair and Unjust Trials
After being in the brutal condition in the prison for one month, the authorities started court proceedings with the respective cases charged against the prisoners. Only then, their family members and relatives were allowed to see them; and to take in food, medicines and clothes for them. Only then, they started to have the feelings of returning to the life of human beings from that of animals.
During the trials, the authorities were the prosecutors (the plaintiffs) and the innocent Rohingya prisoners were accused. They brought two Rakhine extremists in the court to witness against an accused. They were new and strange faces who neither knew the accused personally nor witnessed the involvement of the accused in inciting violence. Once the witnesses said “yes, I saw them,” the judge handed them to lengthy jail terms without any proceeding. There was no chance for appeal. They were one-shot orders like military commands.
The cases of those killed in the prison were removed from the records without any traces. The remaining people still alive were handed lengthy prison terms.
“I was released on August 31, 2015, under the amnesty of President Thein Sein. I felt like I almost reached my grave and returned home from it. So, I am very happy for that.
However, there are still hundreds of innocent people in the prison arrested, imprisoned and tortured along with me. They are serving 10-15 year jail terms for no reason. I plead President Thein Sein to declare amnesties for them and release them from the prison as they were/are innocent like me,” exclaimed a Rohingya prisoner released from the prison under the President’s amnesty.
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