Govern­ment and SkyNet launch TV show on ‘progress in prison re­forms’

The Myanmar Times - - News - SWE WIN news­room@mm­times.com

THE Min­istry of Home Af­fairs and com­mer­cial tele­vi­sion chan­nel SkyNet have co­op­er­ated to launch a weekly pro­gram that shows how con­di­tions in the coun­try’s no­to­ri­ous prison sys­tem are sup­pos­edly im­prov­ing.

The 30-minute pro­gram, ti­tled “Rays of Lights That Im­pact”, was first broad­cast Septem­ber 5 on SkyNet’s Home Chan­nel, one of sev­eral lo­cal chan­nels pro­duced by the broad­caster, which also runs dozens of in­ter­na­tional chan­nels.

The show fea­tured lengthy in­ter­views with prison depart­ment of­fi­cers, who ex­plained that prison con­di­tions had im­proved in re­cent years and how vo­ca­tional pro­grams and Bud­dhist med­i­ta­tion cour­ses were pre­par­ing prison­ers for a life be­yond the walls.

“We or­gan­ise ac­tiv­i­ties for the prison­ers, re­lated with re­li­gious prac­tices, health and ed­u­ca­tion, sports and en­ter­tain­ment,” U Maung Maung Aye, di­rec­tor of the Yan­gon Re­gion Cor­rec­tional Depart­ment, told SkyNet.

“We pro­vide vo­ca­tional train­ings to prison­ers so that they are ready to make a liv­ing af­ter they are re­leased.”

A few min­utes were re­served for ac­tual footage from in­side Yan­gon’s no­to­ri­ous In­sein Prison and brief in­ter­views with three fe­male prison­ers.

U Thin Kyaw, an of­fi­cial of the SkyNet Home Chan­nel, said the chan­nel has a con­tract with the Home Af­fairs Min­istry – which is run by the mil­i­tary – oblig­ing it to run daily pro­grams about ac­tiv­i­ties of the min­istry’s var­i­ous de­part­ments.

He said pro­duc­ers re­cently de­cided to cre­ate a show on prison con­di­tions.

SkyNet is part of the Shwe Than Lwin Me­dia Co con­glom­er­ate owned by U Kyaw Win, who main­tained close ties with the mil­i­tary in the past.

U Min Tun Soe, a spokesper­son for the Cor­rec­tional Depart­ment, said the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs was co­op­er­at­ing with SkyNet “to show to the pub­lic that we have made some progress in prison re­forms”.

He claimed that the TV chan­nel – and not the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs – had pro­posed the show.

How­ever, the pub­lic re­la­tions ef­fort by the min­istry comes at a time of grow­ing at­ten­tion for Myan­mar’s prison sys­tem, renowned for hold­ing thou­sands of po­lit­i­cal prison­ers dur­ing the pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary junta, and for harsh con­di­tions that fre­quently lead to deaths or ill­ness among in­mates.

Myan­mar’s demo­cratic re­forms of re­cent years have largely by-passed the Cor­rec­tional Depart­ment, which op­er­ates 46 pris­ons and 48 prison labour camps, where an es­ti­mated 100,000 con­victs are serv­ing sen­tences.

Dur­ing the pre­vi­ous, quasi-civil­ian govern­ment, food and hous­ing con­di­tions in the pris­ons are said to have im­proved, but a re­cent in-depth in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Myan­mar Now re­vealed wide­spread abuse, cor­rup­tion and ex­ploita­tion of prison­ers held in labour camps.

Lo­cal me­dia widely cir­cu­lated the in­ves­ti­ga­tion’s find­ings, which showed hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions, breach of prison rules and forced labour were rife in the camps, where some 20,000 in­mates toil in plan­ta­tions or rock quar­ries.

The Na­tional League for Democ­ra­cyled govern­ment ap­pears to have made no ef­fort so far to ad­dress poor prison con­di­tions, de­spite the fact that many party mem­bers once served time in­side the fa­cil­i­ties as po­lit­i­cal prison­ers.

– Myan­mar Now

Photo: AFP

A guard closes a gate lead­ing to Yan­gon’s In­sein Prison af­ter a pris­oner re­lease on Oc­to­ber 7, 2014. A new deal be­tween the Home Af­fairs Min­istry and broad­caster SkyNet aims to high­light im­prove­ments to Myan­mar’s prison sys­tem.

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