JAKARTA, Indonesia — Myanmar’s security forces moved in and the street lamps went black. In house after house, people shut off their lights. Darkness swallowed the block.

Huddled inside her home  in this neighborhood of Yangon, 19-year-old Shwe dared to peek out her window into the inky night. A flashlight shone back, and a man’s voice ordered her not to look.

Two gunshots rang out. Then a man’s scream: “HELP!” 

When the military’s trucks finally rolled away, Shwe and her family emerged to look for her 15-year-old brother, worried about frequent abductions by security forces.

“I could feel my blood thumping,” she says. “I had a feeling that he might be taken.”

‘Mass enforced disappearances’

Across the country, Myanmar’s security forces are arresting and forcibly disappearing thousands of people, especially boys and young men, in a sweeping bid to break the back of a three-month uprising against a military coup. In most cases, the families of those taken do not know where they are, according to an Associated Press analysis of more than 3,500 arrests since February.

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UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, is aware of around 1,000 cases of children or young people who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, many without access to lawyers or their families. Though it is difficult to get exact data, UNICEF says the majority are boys.

It is a technique the military has long used to instill fear and to crush pro-democracy movements. The boys and young men are taken from homes, businesses and streets, under the cover of night and sometimes in the brightness of day.

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