Myanmar journalist Koe Soe Naing reported being dead in military custody

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Vaibhav Agrawal
Vaibhav Agrawal
Vaibhav Agrawal is the founder editor of Bhraman (a Digital Travelogue). As an independent journalist, he is passionate for investigating and reporting on complex subjects. He has an extensive background in both print and digital media, with a focus on Travel and Defence reporting. *Views are personal

As per sources, a Myanmar based freelance journalist after being arrested last week while covering protests has died in military custody as said by his friend of his family and his colleagues. 

Ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, since the army seized power in February, Ko Soe Naing is the first journalist known to have died in custody. Since February vaguely more than 100 journalists have been detained while half of them have been released.

Actual side of the case

When the above-cited freelance journalist along with his colleague was in Downtown and Yangon taking photos during a silent strike called by opponents of military rule, Koe Soe Naing was then arrested who was also a graphic designer. 

Koe Soe Naing
Koe Soe Naing

The streets were virtually empty and it was the biggest nationwide protest in several months while people answered the call to stay home and businesses to shut down for six hours.

The others who have been reported dead while in custody have been political activists and members of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, although it is better to mention that there is no clear total and Ko Soe Naing is not the first one to die in government custody.

According to human rights activists, marks on the bodies in several cases (where they could be seen) were somewhere evident of the fact that the individuals had been tortured. 

No more a “Free Place”

As the military-installed government has sought to clamp down on the free flow of information, Journalists have mostly been targets for arrest. Many outlets have been forced to close or operate underground along with their staff always at risk of arrest, in addition to detaining media workers. 

With their work depicting anti-military protests and brutal crackdowns by security forces, Ko Soe Naing and his colleague have been covering the crisis in Myanmar for months. Their work sometimes used to get picked up by foreign news agencies. 

A few of his colleagues who are familiar with the case said that Ko Soe Naing was sent to a military interrogation centre in Yangon’s Eastern Botahtaung Township after his arrest. 

Speaking to the Associated Press (AP) news agency on condition of anonymity as giving such information could make them targets for arrest said that his family was informed on Tuesday morning that he died at the 1,000-bed Defence Service General Hospital in Yangon’s Mingaladon Township. 

One of the investigations carried out by the Associated Press revealed that interrogation centres across Myanmar have been increasingly using torture against detainees since the army has come into power.

While other centres have been set up on military bases or even community buildings, many of the centres were built and used under a former period of military rule. 

As per one of the army defectors, at a mountaintop interrogation centre inside an army base in Chin state, he witnessed soldiers torture two prisoners to death, he told the AP. 

Current scenario 

While the current situation of the photographer arrested with him was not known, Ko Soe Naing is survived by his wife, who could not be contacted, and a four-year-old son.

The immediate release of Aung San Lin, a reporter for the Democratic Voice of Burma, a broadcast and online service, was called upon by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Right after he had given a report that alleged that soldiers had carried out arson on the homes of three supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, he was arrested on 11 December then, as said by the Committee.

Many gone, several forgotten 

According to the human rights monitor Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, there have been at least 1,339 people killed since the February 1 coup. On the other hand, almost 11,000 others have been arrested. 

Accusing military leader Min Aung Hlaing of committing crimes against humanity for overseeing a deadly crackdown on protesters and activists, On Friday, the Myanmar Accountability Project (MAP) filed a complaint before the International Criminal Court with regards to the same.


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