US journalist says he was tortured during detention in Myanmar

Myanmar’s security forces punched, slapped and beat a US journalist and kept him blindfolded for more than a week of interrogation, he said after being deported to the United States following more than three months in detention.

Nathan Maung, 44, the editor-in-chief of the online news platform Kamayut Media, was detained in a raid on 9 March and freed on 15 June. He said his colleague Hanthar Nyein, who remains in detention, had been tortured more harshly, as had other people he met in prison.

A junta spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on Maung’s account, which echoes those of some of the thousands of others detained since the army overthrew the country’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi on 1 February.

The junta has said detainees are treated in accordance with the law.

“The first three to four days were the worst,” Maung said. “I was punched and slapped several times. No matter what I said, they just beat me.

“They used both their hands to slap my eardrums many times. They punched my cheekbones on both sides. They punched my shoulders. I was not allowed to stand up. My legs were swollen. I could not move anymore,” he said.

Maung, who was born in Myanmar and fled to the US as a refugee in the 1990s, said he had been detained at Kamayut Media’s office and taken for questioning.

“They handcuffed my hands behind my back and covered my eyes with a cloth,” he said. “They did not allow me to sleep for about three or four days. Nonstop interrogation. There was no time to sleep.”

He said the beatings diminished on the fourth day, when they discovered he was a US citizen.

Maung was met by US officials after his release and they assisted him and his family, the US embassy said.

It expressed its continuing deep concern over the detention of Maung’s fellow US journalist Danny Fenster, who was detained more than a month ago and whose brother said he was allowed to speak to the US embassy for the first time last week.

Maung said that during his detention he met other people who had been mistreated and heard people shouting, begging and screaming from other buildings.

“Some people experienced worse torture than us. There was someone together with me in a room for two days,” he said. “His body was covered in bruises and injuries. They put his handcuffed hands on the table and beat them.”

Kamayut Media stopped publication after his arrest, but Maung said he planned to resume his work.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners group says nearly 5,200 people remain incarcerated after being detained since the coup. It says security forces have killed at least 881 people, but the junta disputes the figure.

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