The State Department has been working to contact Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian detainees in Myanmar after two officials with her National League for Democracy party died in military custody from alleged torture in the past week.
“We do have an outstanding request for contact with the state counselor who of course is currently unjustly detained by the military,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Friday during a press conference.
“We have continued to consistently inquire about her health and safety, as well as the health and safety of all detained leaders and civil society actors and we’re working through appropriate channels to make contact with those detained,” Price added.
Zaw Myat Lynn from the National League for Democracy (NLD) died following his arrest during a protest in Yangon. Lynn is the second official to die while in the custody of Myanmar’s military since the military wrested control of the country and deposed Suu Kyi in a coup on February 1.
More than 70 people have been killed by security forces and over 2,000 protesters arrested since the coup began.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an independent watchdog organization based in Mae Sot, Thailand said that Myat Lynn was subjected to beatings after his arrest.
“Zaw Myat Lynn, who was head of an educational institute, was announced dead today from injuries consistent with torture following an arbitrary nighttime raid,” the AAPP released in a statement.
Myat Lynn’s death followed that of Yangon NLD party chairman Khin Maung Latt. The AAPP alleges that he also died from beatings associated with torture at the hand of the military.
“On the night of his arrest, Khin Maung Latt was tortured to death in his cell,” the AAPP said in a released statement. Reports of bruising to Khin Maung Latt’s head and body raised suspicions he had been tortured, NLD lawmaker Ba Myo Thein said to Reuters.
While these allegations of torture haven’t been confirmed yet, they have given the U.S. State Department enough concern over the well-being of Aung San Suu Kyi that it is pushing the coup’s military leaders for a meeting with the deposed leader.
Suu Kyi hasn’t been seen since March 1, when she appeared in a court hearing. It was originally believed that she was being detained under house arrest; it is now believed that the military has moved her to an undisclosed location. All of the State Department’s attempts to meet with Suu Kyi have thus far been unsuccessful.
Washington has imposed economic sanctions on the military coup leaders, the Ministry of Defense and Home Affairs, as well as corporations tied to the military. However, any attempts to have the UN impose economic sanctions would no doubt be vetoed by Russia and China in the UN Security Council.
The military crackdown grows as security forces revoked the licenses of five independent media companies and raided the offices of Myanmar media outlets Mizzima and Kamayut Media earlier this week.
The BBC reported that it had spoken with police officers who fled to India because they had refused to comply with the military’s order to fire on unarmed protesters. One officer, using an assumed name, said the following:
“The military officer in charge ordered us to shoot people coming out in groups of more than five. I know that people were beaten up. I had sleepless nights.”
“When I saw innocent people bleeding, my conscience wouldn’t permit me to take part in such evil acts.”
The Nikkei Asia reported that early on Saturday morning, March 13, police fired on and killed two protesters in the Tharketa district of Yangon after a crowd gathered in front of a police station demanding the release of citizens arrested earlier.
The U.S. is still hoping to resolve this crisis through the UN without any more blood being shed. Furthermore, the Biden administration announced that it has granted temporary deportation relief and work permits to Myanmar citizens who are currently living and working in the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security said Friday, that this decision means the approximately 1,600 Burmese citizens in the U.S. will be eligible for Temporary Protected Status for 18 months.