Two in­mates die of ill­nesses at In­sein

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - – Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Ye Mon, trans­la­tion by Khine Thazin Han, Emoon and Thiri Min Htun toe­wa­iaung@mm­times.com TOE WAI AUNG

Po­lice say these are the sev­enth and eighth deaths at the prison this year, while an ad­vo­cacy group calls on the gov­ern­ment to over­haul the jus­tice sys­tem and ad­dress the health is­sues.

TWO in­mates at Yan­gon’s In­sein Prison died over the last week fol­low­ing se­vere health con­di­tions. Of­fi­cials say the young men were un­healthy when they ar­rived at the fa­cil­ity, but rights groups al­lege that in­ad­e­quate prison hos­pi­tals and poor san­i­ta­tion reg­u­larly leads to the spread of dis­ease and pre­ventable deaths be­hind bars.

In the first case, 27-year-old Ko Wai Lwin of Thin­gangyun town­ship passed away af­ter con­tract­ing pneu­mo­nia. He had been serv­ing a six-month sen­tence af­ter he was found guilty un­der sec­tion 19(e) of the colo­nial-era Arms Act on Au­gust 5. The pro­vi­sion cov­ers un­li­censed pos­ses­sion of a weapon.

Ko Wai Lwin was found dead in the prison hos­pi­tal at 3am on the morn­ing of Oc­to­ber 19. He had choked to death, ac­cord­ing to Po­lice Cap­tain Shwe Zan. Ear­lier that same morn­ing he had been ad­mit­ted to the prison hos­pi­tal af­ter he be­gan cough­ing blood in his dor­mi­tory.

On Oc­to­ber 23, an­other man, Ko Kyaw Min Aung, 34, died of a heart at­tack.

The in­mate had been con­victed and handed a three-year sen­tence un­der sec­tions 380 and 457 of the pe­nal code for theft and tres­pass­ing on Oc­to­ber 19. On Oc­to­ber 23 around 2pm he was rushed to the hos­pi­tal with trou­ble breath­ing. He died at 4:30pm, ac­cord­ing to the po­lice cap­tain and In­sein town­ship judge U Nyi Nyi Tun.

The deaths are the sev­enth and eighth this year at In­sein Prison.

“The in­mates were un­healthy be­fore they were sent to prison,” said an of­fi­cial from the prison depart­ment who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity. “If an in­take is ill, the prison hos­pi­tal is re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing med­i­cal treat­ment to them ... [With the most re­cent death] we knew his health con­di­tion was wors­en­ing, so we sent him to the hos­pi­tal. But un­for­tu­nately, he died within a few hours.”

The ail­ing crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, with its run­down and cramped pen­i­ten­tiaries, poses an enor­mous chal­lenge for the re­form agenda set by the gov­ern­ment, now staffed by a large num­ber of for­mer po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers.

While data on treat­ment be­hind bars is hard to come by, what lit­tle in­for­ma­tion ex­ists paints a pic­ture of in­ad­e­quate prison health fa­cil­i­ties and ram­pant sick­ness.

A re­cent re­port com­piled by the prison ac­tivist group the As­sis­tance As­so­ci­a­tion for Po­lit­i­cal Pris­on­ers Burma called the health con­di­tions at the cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties “abysmal”.

Proper san­i­ta­tion and hy­giene are peren­ni­ally ab­sent, sewage fa­cil­i­ties are known to over­flow ha­bit­u­ally, and in rainy sea­son, ex­cre­ment mixes with drink­ing wa­ter to prompt reg­u­lar cholera out­breaks.

Com­bined with a poor diet and in­suf­fi­cient ex­er­cise, the per­va­sive prob­lem of overcrowding cre­ates an en­vi­ron­ment con­ducive to spread­ing dis­ease. In­mates fre­quently fall ill, with malaria, tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, dysen­tery and sca­bies all con­sid­ered “fairly nor­mal con­di­tions in prison”, ac­cord­ing to the re­port, which was re­leased last month. Se­vere mal­nu­tri­tion was also flagged as a com­mon prob­lem in the fa­cil­i­ties.

“The Na­tional League for Democ­racy gov­ern­ment has not yet ad­dressed the op­pres­sive prison sys­tem and made sure that all pris­on­ers are given fair treat­ment. The gov­ern­ment is still fail­ing in that re­gard,” said Ko Bo Kyi, joint sec­re­tary of the AAPPB. “Some pris­on­ers have died be­cause of the op­pres­sion in prison and the bad health con­di­tions.”

‘The Na­tional League for Democ­racy gov­ern­ment has not yet ad­dressed the op­pres­sive prison sys­tem.’

Ko Bo Kyi AAPPB

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