Report of torture by Myanmar military sparks calls for probe from State Department, Congress

An AP report details the secretive detention system that has been in place in Myanmar since the military takeover in February.
Myanmar Coup

The U.S. Department of State on Friday demanded an investigation into the Myanmar military following a news report that found systemic torture of detainees across the country.

The report by the Associated Press was based on interviews with 28 people, including women and children who have been imprisoned and released since the military took control of the government in February.

"We are outraged and disturbed by ongoing reports of the Burmese military regime's use of 'systematic torture' across the country," said the State Department. "Reports of torture in Burma must be credibly investigated, and those responsible for such abuses must be held accountable." Burma is an alternative name for the country.

The AP report provided the State Department, members of Congress, and the public with a comprehensive view of the Myanmar military's highly secretive detention system, which has held more than 9,000 people since the takeover. 

At least 131 detainees have reportedly been tortured to death since February, and more than 1,000 others have been killed by security forces. 

"The AP's investigation sheds important light on the scope and systemic nature of the junta's criminal torture campaign," said Tom Andrews, a United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar. "The confession of military personnel who directly witnessed detainees being tortured to death will be important for accountability efforts, as well as the AP's uncovering of torture and interrogation center locations."

Texas Rep. Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, encouraged his colleagues to hold a vote on the BURMA Act, which would authorize additional targeted sanctions against the Burmese army. 

"The disturbing reporting by the Associated Press on the sadistic torture and horrific violence committed by the Burmese military junta are sadly the latest in a long string of their atrocities, including genocide against the Rohingya," said McCaul, referring to the 2017 mass rape and slaughter of thousands of Rohingya Muslims. 

The United States, United Kingdom, and European Union have placed sanctions on high-ranking members of the Myanmar military and state-owned and controlled companies, although those authorities have not yet sanctioned American and French oil and gas companies working in Myanmar. The business of those companies has enabled the military to maintain its single largest source of foreign currency revenue, which is in turn used by the military to purchase weapons.