About 50 demonstrators who marched peacefully in Rangoon on Tuesday were confronted by thugs and plainclothes security officers who threaten, beat and arrested 15 protestors.

Junta's 'Hit Men' Attack Protestors

By Kyaw Zwa Moe

Hit men. They have no sympathy. They punch, beat and kick demonstrators even in public. They use all methods of torture. They loiter in public in townships in Rangoon, Burma’s former capital, and in cities throughout the country.

On Tuesday, a thin, pale 34-year-old woman protestor who suffers from heart disease became their target, as they tried to drag her away for arrest, pulling her by her hair and hands.

A few brave, fellow activists pulled her back from the hit men. Unfortunately, at least eight other protesters were not so lucky. The worst victim was Ye Thein Naing, known as Oway, who was repeatedly punched and kicked. Then they threw him into a waiting truck where they methodically beat him. Then he was kicked out of the truck onto the road and beaten again.

Now, Ye Thein Naing, with at least 100 other protesters, is in Rangoon’s Kyaikasan interrogation center.

Who are the hit men?

Many are civilian thugs working with the police and other security agencies. Many are members of the junta-organized Union Solidarity and Development Association and a paramilitary group called Swan Arr Shin. The infamous USDA took part in the 2003 crackdown on pro-democracy activists, including the detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The hit men, the thugs, comparable to the Storm Troopers of Nazi Germany, are out again because of demonstrations in Rangoon led by prominent activist Min Ko Naing of the 88 Generation Students group. Hundreds of citizens throughout the country have since marched against the junta’s sharp increase in fuel prices on Aug 19. 

“They suddenly appear seconds after a protest begins no matter how small it is,” a Rangoon resident told The Irrawaddy by phone. “Some of them are drunk and their faces are reddish.”  

The thugs can be seen in groups loitering in front of City Hall, around Thingyi Market, around bus stations and in the downtown areas of Tammwe Plaza and Hledan. Authorities pay them 2,000 to 2,500 kyat per day (US $2).

A woman witness at several demonstrations said authorities first order the thugs to prevent protesters from demonstrating. If a demonstration begins, they are ordered to punch and beat demonstrators. Some follow the orders, some don’t.

“Actually plainclothes authorities themselves also hit the protesters,” she said.
Perhaps because of the thugs—and the numerous arrests—the demonstrations began to slack off in Rangoon on Thursday. Many onlookers who sympathize with the protestors are now afraid to join in.

Tension between the public and the goons and the security forces is high. People across the country have expressed their angry feelings towards USDA members.

One activist, now in hiding, said the junta deliberately uses hit men and plainclothes security forces to be able to label them “dutiful citizen” who became angry at the demonstrators.
“They (the generals) incite clashes between protesters and the hired mobs,” he said. “If things really get out of hand, the authorities will call it an ‘anarchy riot’ and then use the armed forces to destroy the protestors."   

“Those men look scary," he said. "This method so far seems to be in control of the situation. But if the tolerance of the public runs out, the people will trade tit-for-tat attacks. While we are expecting the best thing from the demonstrations, we should prepare for the worst thing.”

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