Freed American journalist remembers horrors of Myanmar junta jail

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Journalist Nathan Maung turned to meditation when he was jailed for reporting on Myanmar’s bloody coup, but even back home in sleepy Virginia, he can’t forget those left behind, including a colleague still at the mercy of their jailers.

In March, as the junta moved to crush mass pro-democracy protests on Myanmar’s streets, about 45 soldiers arrived at Maung’s office in the commercial capital Yangon, he told AFP in an interview.

As the squad battered their way through the gate and a locked door, Maung was frantically sending messages to friends telling them he was about to be arrested, he said.

When the soldiers finally broke through and stormed in with their guns up, “I said, ‘Please, don’t shoot us’.”

Myanmar has been rocked by a huge uprising since the February putsch that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi and her government.

The junta has responded with force — shooting protesters, arresting suspected dissidents, rounding up journalists and shutting down news outlets.

Maung and his colleague Hanthar Nyein watched the squad take “everything from our office” — cash, jewelry, and even shoes — before they were brought to an interrogation center in northern Yangon.

There, he said, he was held “for four days” — during three of which he was denied food, and for two, water.

“I kept practicing Vipassana meditation to be mindful,” said Maung, who is a Myanmar-born US citizen.

And with the first sip of water came hope.

“After I drank my first water, I thought I could live,” he said. “I wouldn’t be killed.”

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