Junta troops raided homes in several wards and arrested at least five people in Mandalay after an off-duty army sergeant was shot dead in the city by urban guerrilla fighters early Tuesday morning, according to locals.
Forty-year-old Myo Htwe was visiting his mother in Maha Aungmyay Township’s Aung Chan Thar ward when he was killed by members of the Generation Z Power, a resistance group which claimed responsibility for the assassination. The targeted officer was shot five times, in the chest, head, and arms, an eyewitness said.
Myanmar army sergeant shot dead in Mandalay
Myanmar army sergeant shot dead in Mandalay
Several bombings have also been reported in the city in recent days, according to residents
Junta troops arrived at the scene of the shooting soon after and conducted searches of nearly every house in the ward, residents told Myanmar Now.
A man living in Aung Chan Thar said that the raids started from three wards: his own, as well as Than Nauk and Sein Pan, with armed troops blocking off several areas of the city.
“They sealed off all corners of the wards. People could only enter but they couldn’t leave their wards. There were hundreds of them, and police trucks with cages,” the local said on the condition of anonymity.
He explained that the soldiers entered his house by force and asked how many people lived there.
“They made us open our chests of drawers, rummaged through our beds and through the whole house. Only after they looked through everything they wanted did they even ask what we did for a living,” the local said.
Soldiers reportedly questioned residents further if any of the family members registered at the address were not present during the search.
According to several Mandalay residents, soldiers arrested at least five youth from checkpoints on the city’s roads on Tuesday afternoon. The identities of those taken into junta custody could not be independently verified at the time of reporting.
Two of the individuals were reportedly detained near the intersection of 56th and 135th streets in Pyigyitagon Township, around seven miles from where the army sergeant was shot. Three others were arrested in nearby Chanmyathazi Township.
“There were lots of soldiers moving around the city. They interrogated everyone they saw. It seemed like they were looking for something,” a Mandalay local who witnessed the searches in Chanmyathazi said.
Another resident of the city said she saw armed troops conducting searches in a ward she passed through on Tuesday afternoon.
“There were both plainclothes officers and uniformed ones. The ones in plainclothes were holding similar batons. Their faces were so tense,” the individual said, adding, “I had to walk through that crowd because it was impossible for me to avoid them. I was so afraid thinking they could harm me.”
During the second week of June, local guerrilla groups in Mandalay attacked at least eight junta targets, including in three bombings carried out in Maha Aungmyay, the same township where the army sergeant was killed. Generation Z Power claimed responsibility for those attacks as well.
True to form, the prison authorities came down hard when Ko Agga and four others banded together to request that their rights be respected.
“They accused us of protesting, beat us, and sent us to solitary confinement,” he said.
It is not unusual for prisoners to die due to the extremely poor conditions inside Obo Prison, or as a result of their brutal treatment at the hands of prison authorities.
“Some have lost their lives because they were denied medical treatment. In some cases, their families are not even informed of their death before they are buried,” said one lawyer who has represented inmates of the prison.
Another lawyer described a client who became so malnourished that he didn’t have the strength to appear in court.
“My client was starved while he was locked up in solitary confinement. For a long time, he couldn’t even attend his own court hearings. After he was finally released, I could see that he had lost a lot of weight and was in very poor health,” he said.
Sometimes the violence was more direct, and even more lethal.
In June, at least two inmates of the prison were beaten to death with metal batons during a crackdown that also left at least 13 others injured, according to both lawyers. And a prisoner who was recently released reported a similar incident on August 8—the anniversary of the start of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement—that resulted in at least one death.
Ready to return to the revolution
Ko Agga and his three comrades were released in late October, a few days before completing their sentences of one year and nine months for incitement. During his time behind bars, he experienced hellish conditions and inhuman treatment, both as a victim and as a witness.
“Detainees are starved, bound, and beaten during interrogation. Some youths and LGBT people are sexually assaulted. Some come out of the interrogation centre blind in one eye or unable to use one of their legs. Most inmates need therapy to heal their mental trauma,” he said.
Now staying in a safe location, Ko Agga is able to reflect on his ordeal and begin his own process of healing.
“I used to be very quick-tempered. But I was close to insanity when I came out of prison—quiet and stupefied. I couldn’t even picture my mother’ face when I was in prison,” he said.
But far from breaking his spirit, his time inside Obo Prison only strengthened his resolve to defeat the enemy of his generation—the regime that overthrew the country’s elected government on February 1, 2021.
“I was traumatised, but I pulled myself together for the sake of the revolution,” he said. “I’m not afraid to go back to prison. We have lost our rights, and must fight to win them back for future generations.”