Po­lit­i­cal pris­oner de­scribes beat­ings, ex­tor­tion at In­sein prison

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Suu Suu Cour­tesy of Myan­mar Now

As a po­lit­i­cal pris­oner Hla Phone was af­forded a cer­tain sta­tus be­hind bars. He was treated rel­a­tively well, al­lowed to spend the days read­ing and watch­ing tele­vi­sion.But other in­mates weren’t so lucky.In an in­ter­view with Myan­mar Now, Hla Phone, who was con­victed of on­line defama­tion in Novem­ber and re­leased in a re­cent amnesty, de­scribed a tiered sys­tem of abuse within In­sein, Myan­mar’s most in­fa­mous cor­rec­tional fa­cil­ity on the out­skirts of Yan­gon.

“Once new prison­ers ar­rived, the hard­ened crim­i­nals ap­pointed by the prison man­age­ment as dis­ci­plinar­i­ans would di­vide them into two groups,” he said.

The divi­sions were tied to who had money and who didn’t. Poor con­victs were beaten up once they ar­rived and as­signed hard work, Hla Phone said.

“Those who can­not pay money had to learn stan­dard be­hav­ior for prison­ers. Dur­ing that ses­sion, they were slapped and kicked by hard­ened crim­i­nals. Those who can pay the money just have to pay 5,000 ky­ats ($3.50) each and were ex­empted from that drill,” he said.

Al­leged abuses within In­sein are not new. Built in the late 19th cen­tury by the Bri­tish, the prison has long been a source of tor­ment and an­guish.

Dur­ing Myan­mar’s pro-democ­racy move­ment that started in the 1988, In­sein be­came a dump­ing ground for ac­tivists with Aung San Suu Kyi’s Na­tional League for Democ­racy.

Some of them now serve in the NLD’s gov­ern­ment that came to power last year af­ter nearly five decades of mil­i­tary rule.

Al­though groups like the As­sis­tance As­so­ci­a­tion for Po­lit­i­cal Prison­ers have doc­u­mented many cases of phys­i­cal and men­tal tor­ture that took place in In­sein, con­di­tions have im­proved over the years, es­pe­cially since the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross vis­ited in 1999. To­day In­sein holds about 11,000 in­mates.

But de­spite such progress, beat­ings and ex­tor­tion re­main com­mon, Hla Phone said.

“If an or­di­nary con­vict can­not af­ford a bribe, he will be as­signed to tasks such as car­ry­ing ex­cre­ment and work­ing in the plan­ta­tions in­side the prison,” he al­leged. “Wealthy prison­ers can lead a care­free life­style.”

In­sein Prison Su­per­in­ten­dent Myo Oo did not re­spond to phone calls seek­ing com­ment, but Min Tun Soe, the deputy di­rec­tor of the Cor­rec­tional Depart­ment, told Myan­mar Now that ac­tion would be taken if his depart­ment re­ceives com­plaints.

“No­body can ask prison­ers for money. The ex­ist­ing laws do not al­low that,” he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.