Yu Wai Myint was a bubbly young lady who always had a smile on her face and enjoyed singing when she worked at her sewing machine. The 22-year-old seamstress had to leave school when she was in the eighth grade because of obligations at home, yet she never appeared to be bitter about her situation in life.
The majority of her upbringing was spent in the care of her grandparents and uncles. She was a joyful and cheerful person. “She never failed to sing while she worked on her sewing projects,” remembered her good friend Ko Nge.
However, Yu Wai Myint’s life took a drastic turn when the military of Myanmar seized control in February 2021. This event changed the course of her life forever. Having lived the first half of her young life under civilian authority, she had no wish to see her nation come under the control of yet another harsh dictatorship after having lived under civilian rule for the first half of her life. As a result, she engaged in combat.
At first, the native of Mandalay took part in demonstrations to resist the coup. Subsequently, when the crackdowns became more severe, she joined other people in establishing a Facebook page to notify other activists of the movements of the military in the city.
She was more than just another keyboard fighter because she was the administrator of the “Voice of Mandalay,” or “Vomdy,” page. In addition to that, she was a wanted woman.
She evaded capture until the latter half of the previous year. The following day, on September 4, two military vehicles showed up in front of her residence in the Aungmyay Thazan Township of Mandalay.
“At the point of a gun, the Junta troops demanded that her uncle and his wife reveal the whereabouts of her home. According to Ko Nge, when they arrived, some of the troops went upstairs into the residence, while others remained below to keep watch.
Yu Wai Myint, just like a lot of other people who opposed the dictatorship, had two phones: one that she used for more critical communications, and another that she used as a decoy. Once they had her in their custody, the soldiers smacked her around and demanded to know where she had hidden her second phone.
“They threatened her, saying that she would find out what they are capable of if she lied about not having another phone,” Ko Nge remembered. “They said she would find out what they’re capable of if she lied about not having another phone.”
Later on same day, pro-junta Telegram channels said that the regime had “a beautiful young woman” in custody and that she was “being questioned with care.” Since then, no one has had any contact with her.
The terrifying castle of Mandalay
The only thing that anyone knows about what happened to Yu Wai Myint is that she was transported to Mandalay Palace, which was the location of one of the most infamous interrogation centers run by the junta.
The palace, which can be found in the middle of the walled and moated ancient city of Mandalay, served as the official house of Myanmar’s royal family until 1885, when the British government coerced Thibaw Min, the country’s last monarch, into abdicating his throne and sending him into exile in India.
Today, it is widely considered to be one of the most dangerous areas in Myanmar. The best that one may aspire for after being “questioned with care” there is to be transported to Mandalay’s Obo Prison, as torture is common practice there, and the practice is widespread.
There is, however, no evidence to suggest that Yu Wai Myint has yet emerged from behind the walls of the palace as of this moment. Despite this, there is a glimmer of optimism that she might still be alive.
I’ve been told that she is still inside and that she has contracted tuberculosis and is coughing up blood. I’ve also been told that she is still inside. However, we are unsure as to whether or not she is undergoing any form of treatment. According to what Ko Nge has heard from a military source, “all we can do is pray that they will take her to the hospital.”
After being brought into custody, it is not unusual for detained individuals in Myanmar to vanish from public view for an extended period of time. Since the regime does not make any information about detainees public, the friends and family of individuals who are imprisoned are forced to rely on friendly sources within the system in order to find out the limited information that is available.
“The whereabouts of a great number of prisoners are currently unknown. ” Tate Naing, the secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which tries to keep track of Myanmar’s hundreds of political prisoners, stated, “They do not appear at court, and we do not know if they are dead or alive.”
Lawyers in Myanmar also have restricted access to the country’s detention centers, where they frequently learn upsetting details about the conditions in which inmates are held.
One female lawyer who talked to Myanmar Now on the condition of maintaining her anonymity stated that sexual assaults, which occasionally lead to the death of the victim, are widespread within the Mandalay Palace.
“Women are sexually assaulted, subjected to verbal abuse, and frequently raped. After that, their bodies are disposed of in order to cover up the crime,” said the lawyer, who estimated that more than a third of the approximately 1,000 people who have been questioned at Mandalay Palace ever since the coup were women.
The situation regarding Aye Nandar Soe
“The most noteworthy case is that of the young woman from Sagaing who goes by the name Aye Nandar Soe. She was forced to walk around outside at night while blindfolded. It is forbidden for anyone to inquire about her because she was never brought to Obo Prison, according to the attorney.
When Aye Nandar Soe, then 21 years old and in the third year of her studies at the Sagaing University of Education, was detained for her activity against the dictatorship on September 18, 2021, she was a third-year student. She was the president of the student union at the university, and she was originally from the Taze Township in the Sagaing region. Her parents were farmers, and she led protests both on campus and in the town where she grew up.
When she was hauled out of a bus at a checkpoint on the bridge connecting Mandalay to Sagaing on the other side of the Ayeyarwady River, she was on her way back home from Mandalay. The bridge connects the two cities on opposing sides of the river. She was also brought to Mandalay Palace, but unlike Yu Wai Myint, who was taken there a year later, no contact with her has been made since then.
According to Wai Lin, a close friend of ours, it has been almost eight months since anyone has heard any word about her.
“We heard that she was severely tortured, and that she was taken out of the interrogation centre one night with some prisoners who were on death row,” he claimed, noting that this information came from other Mandalay Palace detainees who had since been released. “We heard that she was taken out of the interrogation centre one night with some prisoners who were on death row,” he said.
After afterwards, there were no further reports of the event. Then we found out that she had passed away. It has been a year and a half since this happened,” he said, his voice cracking with the passion he was feeling.
“I still get emotional whenever I remember her,” she said. I desire for her presence so much. He described her as a girl who had a lot of self-confidence but was also very headstrong.
After briefly choking back an audible sob, Wai Lin continued in a commanding tone, “It’s shameful that the junta hasn’t revealed any news concerning her. Even if she is presumed to be dead, they have not confirmed it to us. He responded, “I will never forgive them for this; it is an outrage of the highest order.”
Putting an end to the hush
Inside Mandalay Prison, a great number of other people have passed away under similarly ambiguous circumstances, the majority of which have gone unacknowledged by the administration.
On September 30, 2021, a student leader from Kyaukse Technological University named Lin Paing Soe was taken into custody. It is thought that he passed away within the confines of the interrogation center within a day of his arrest. However, it took many weeks for this information to finally get through to his family.
Ven. Sandima, an activist monk who was detained on February 9, 2022 during a raid on Thinzagar Monastery in Mandalay’s Chanayethazan Township, is another prisoner who has not been accounted for as of yet. This raid took place on February 9. More than three months after his arrest, he was still being held at Mandalay Palace and had not been moved to Obo Prison yet, which sparked growing concerns for his personal safety. Even after more than a year has passed, his whereabouts are still unclear.
According to the lawyer who was interviewed by Myanmar Now, there is sufficient evidence to support the hypothesis that individuals who have not been seen since their detention have been murdered by members of the regime.
Since the moment they took power, they have been publicly committing acts of torture and murdering victims in front of others. “It is even simpler for them to carry out the same behavior toward detainees under their control and then to simply get rid of them,” she said.
Disturbing allegations emerged from Mandalay Palace in January of the previous year, detailing the torturing of three members of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions by inserting bamboo sticks into their rectums and prodding them repeatedly with the sticks. According to reports, they were prevented from receiving treatment for their potentially fatal injuries.
The identities of the victims were made public with the consent of members of their families in the belief that doing so will shield them from any additional harm that may come their way. However, for families, the decision to go public with their concerns about the well-being of their loved ones is frequently one that is fraught with agony.
According to Tate Naing of the AAPP, there is always the possibility that speaking up could result in a longer period of detention, or even something worse. However, he continued by saying that it is generally preferable not to let these incidents go undetected.
If their tales are reported in the media, their safety will actually improve, and they won’t be in as much danger. “And the family may be notified about the prisoner’s whereabouts, or their death, even if this information is never disclosed publicly,” he said. “And the family may be notified about the prisoner’s whereabouts, or their death.”
He went on to say that maintaining silence just gives the dictatorship the opportunity to cover up the proof of the terrible treatment it meted out to inmates.
“If a prisoner has been severely injured due to torture, they may decide that the best thing to do is just finish them off once and for all,” he said. “If a prisoner has been severely injured due to torture, they may choose to finish them off.”