In Myanmar, Accounts of Disappearances Create a Climate of Fear

At least 16 young men disappeared last month.

In four cities across Myanmar, under cover of darkness, armed groups took them to police stations, according to family members and some of the men themselves. Some were released after paying ransoms. In other cases, failure to pay led to forced conscription into the military. Other men simply vanished.

Such disappearances began after Myanmar’s military seized power in February 2021. But they appear to have accelerated in recent weeks, at a time when the military is facing the most serious challenge to its rule since the coup. In October, three ethnic rebel armies started the biggest offensive against the government in nearly three years.

The New York Times confirmed the abductions of 16 men in November, through interviews with men who had been released or with relatives of others. In some cases, it is unclear where they were taken and why. In a country that is functionally locked down by the military junta, information is hard to come by, and it is difficult to determine the exact number of disappearances.

But the accounts have sent a chill through communities. Family members are instructing men and boys to stay home. Parents are pulling their sons out of school.

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