Burma: land rights activist killedEvent
- Event Description
On 5 April 2013, Mr. U Than Htun, resident of Pandaung Township, Pyay District, Bago Region, was brought to the Pandaung Township Police Station after an argument with another villager and was released on bail three days later. It is reported that Mr. U Than Htun was actively working for farmers in the Kyar Inn Village (Old) Tract where the National Resource Development Cooperation Company (NRDC) is in a dispute with cultivators over rights to the land. As a result of his role in supporting the farmers, he had been interrog ated four times,and was among 17 people sued by the company. On 17 May 2013, over a month after the incident, Mr. U Than Htun received a letter from the police calling him in for interrogation at the Pandaung Township Police Station on 19 May 2013 at 4.00 p.m. A family member brought Mr. Than Htun to the police station where he immediately got detained despite the fact that he was previously granted bail by a court's decision. On 23 May 2013 at 10.30a.m, police officers came to the residence of Mr. U Than Htun and informed the family that he had been hospitalized at the Pandaung Township Hospital due to his alcoholism. Later that day, the family was reportedly informed that he died due to the effects of alcoholism before arriving at the hospital. Furthermore the police authorities explained that Mr. U Than Htun allegedly hit himself with an iron pole during interrogations as a result of his alcoholism. It is reported that the family took photographs of Mr. U Than Htun's body that depict scars and bruising on his face, legs, and ribs from what is alleged to be the results of beatings with a rubber truncheon; there are lacerations on his two wrists from allegedly prolonged handcuffing. According to the information received, other photographs showed that his face was heavily bruised and deeply swollen. Furthermore, it is reported that the ribs on his left side were broken and there were scars and bruising on his legs from the rolling of a rubber truncheon, which is allegedly a well-known technique of torture in the country. It is also alleged that the post mortem examination revealed that Mr. U Than Htun did not die due to any type of organ failure. It is also reported that when the family tried to recover Mr. Than Htun's clothes as evidence, the police refused to hand them over. Furthermore, it is reported that the police agreed to cover the expenses of the funeral, but did not agree on returning the body of Mr. U Than Htun back to his family. According to the information received, the family tried to lodge a complaint against the commander of Pandaung Township Police Station on 24 May 2013. According to the information received, the death was listed for an inquest which allegedly hindered the family from registering a complaint. It is also reported that on 28 May 2013 the family allegedly succeeded in lodging a complaint. However, it is reported that the court of first instance dismissed the complaint for unknown reasons. Finally, it is reported that in Myanmar, torture is widespread in police stations where it most commonly takes the form of beatings and other blunt methods intended to cause pain and obtain a confession. According to information received, this is also due to the pressure on police officers to take immediate action in criminal cases and to report any results immediately to the higher authorities, which allegedly leads to the use of torture to obtain confessions from suspects. Furthermore, torture is not defined as a criminal offence in the national legislation and police officers are rarely held accountable for abuses committed on detainees in custody. It is also reported that in similar cases, police authorities usually claim that the victims have died as a result of their medical condition. 22/07/13: A Joint Allegation Letter sent to Burma by Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 29/10/2013: Burma provided a short but substantive response.
- Impact of Event
- Arbitrary arrest and detention
- Arrest and detention
- Reprisal as result of communication
- Violence (physical)
- Rights Concerned
- Freedom of association
- Right to life
- Right to property
- Event Location
- Summary for Publications
On 19 May 2013, Mr U Than Htun, a land rights defender, was arrested at Pandaung Township Police Station, Pyay. On 22 May 2013, he was sent to hospital in relation to alleged symptoms of alcoholism, but allegedly died before arriving at hospital. However, he had bruises and scars on his face, ribs, and legs and lacerations on his wrists from the handcuffs. It is thought that Mr. Than Htun was targeted because of his work helping local farmers in their dispute against a government-owned development corporation. 22/07/13: A Joint Allegation Letter sent to Burma by Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. 29/10/2013: Burma provided a short but substantive response.