Prison head trans­ferred af­ter rights abuse probe

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - SHOON NAING shoonnaing@mm­

Prison rights ad­vo­cates are de­mand­ing fur­ther ac­tion be taken af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the MNHRC re­vealed wide­spread abuses and ex­ploita­tion at Man­dalay’s Myin Chan Prison.

SE­VERE rights abuses re­ported at a Man­dalay cor­rec­tional fa­cil­ity – in­clud­ing im­proper health­care for inmates liv­ing with HIV – have al­legedly re­sulted in the trans­fer­ring of a prison war­den but no fur­ther ac­tion, The Myan­mar Times has learned.

Inmates had re­belled against cor­rec­tional of­fi­cers and staged a protest on Oc­to­ber 11, prompt­ing the Myan­mar Na­tional Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion to launch an in­quiry.

Ac­cord­ing to prison ad­vo­cacy groups, such abuses are in­dica­tive of the rarely re­ported but wide­spread ex­ploita­tion and vi­o­la­tions oc­cur­ring within Myan­mar’s cor­rec­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion team from MNHRC found that Man­dalay’s Myin Chan Prison had all the usual dys­func­tional trap­pings and then some, with health­care and food sup­ply prob­lems, cor­rup­tion and cor­po­ral abuse all noted as en­demic at the fa­cil­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to a state­ment re­leased last month by the rights com­mis­sion, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion team was sent to Myin Chan Prison to fol­low up on the protest.

“Although the dis­tur­bance on Oc­to­ber 11 was of­fi­cially due to a prison fight, we found out that the ac­tual cause was dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the head of the prison,” an MNHRC state­ment said.

The com­mis­sion­ers found enough vi­o­la­tions to clas­sify them into four dif­fer­ent group­ings: food sup­ply, health­care, prob­lems re­lated to tax col­lec­tion and per­sonal be­long­ings, and other gen­eral dis­sat­is­fac­tions.

“The HIV pa­tients who are re­ceiv­ing ART [an­tiretro­vi­ral ther­apy] med­i­ca­tion and the TB pa­tients re­ceiv­ing treat­ment are not get­ting enough food or nu­tri­ents in or­der to with­stand the ef­fects of their med­i­ca­tion,” the MNHRC said in its state­ment un­der the cat­e­gory of “food sup­ply” is­sues.

The MNHRC also found the wide­spread prob­lem of prison over­crowd­ing was par­tic­u­larly acute at Myin Chan. Up to 80 inmates were be­ing de­tained in rooms with a ca­pac­ity half that num­ber.

“Myin Chan Prison should re­quest ad­di­tional fund­ing in or­der to ex­pand with more build­ings since they are cur­rently de­tain­ing dou­ble the amount of prison­ers that they are sup­posed to de­tain,” said the MNHRC.

Myin Chan inmates were also be­ing sub­jected to a rash of cor­rup­tion in­clud­ing forced do­na­tions, and taxes that were be­ing used to float the prison’s ex­penses, ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sion’s in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

The MNHRC did not re­turn re­peated re­quests for com­ment about the Myin Chan Prison probe. How­ever, U Min Tun Soe, deputy di­rec­tor of the Se­cu­rity De­part­ment, ac­knowl­edged that the fa­cil­ity had been sub­ject to a re­cent rash of prob­lems that were re­solved through staff turnover.

U Min Tun Soe told The Myan­mar Times that both prison­ers and the head of Myin Chan Prison had made mis­takes. He added that the prison war­den at the time of the protest, U Zaw Min Aung, had been trans­ferred to another de­part­ment in Man­dalay as a re­sult.

“We re­moved the of­fi­cial re­spon­si­ble for the mis­takes,” he said.

When con­tacted by The Myan­mar Times, U Zaw Min Aung did not dis­pute the ac­count, but de­clined to add fur­ther com­ment. The cur­rent war­den, U Khin Maung Htay, also de­clined to com­ment when asked if con­di­tions had im­proved at Myin Chan.

U Min Tun Soe ad­mit­ted that there had been health con­cerns at the fa­cil­ity, but said now that a doc­tor had been ap­pointed to serve the prison, they were re­solved.

“It is true that we did not have a doc­tor [as­signed to Myin Chan] but we, the se­cu­rity de­part­ment, can­not ap­point doc­tors di­rectly; we can only re­quest the health­care de­part­ment send one,” he said.

When asked if any ad­di­tional fol­lowup would be taken in re­sponse to the al­leged abuses, U Min Tun Soe said the prison was await­ing fur­ther in­struc­tion from the Min­istry of Home Af­fairs fol­low­ing the sub­mis­sion of the MNHRC report.

“The prison­ers have re­quested that we do not use their man­power for the prison’s agriculture and live­stock sec­tors un­til we ful­fill their re­quests. But there were some re­quests that we can­not ful­fill for se­cu­rity con­cerns,” he said.

The Myan­mar Times re­quested ac­cess to Myin Chan Prison in or­der to speak with inmates and staff, and sur­vey the con­di­tions, but was de­nied.

Prison ac­tivist group the As­sis­tance As­so­ci­a­tion for Po­lit­i­cal Prison­ers Burma told The Myan­mar Times that cor­rec­tional fa­cil­i­ties around the coun­try are fail­ing to pro­vide liv­ing stan­dards ad­e­quate for hu­man be­ings, and called on the govern­ment to ur­gently rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion.

“When the state ar­rests some­one and im­pris­ons them they are tak­ing them into state cus­tody, which means they need to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for that per­son’s health­care, food and clothes, all while keep­ing in mind the dig­nity of the pris­oner,” said Ko Bo Kyi, joint sec­re­tary of the AAPPB. “The state is cur­rently fail­ing to ful­fill those re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, which is lead­ing to cases that re­sult in the death of inmates.”

At the end of Oc­to­ber, two inmates at Yangon’s In­sein Prison died of se­vere ill­nesses. One had con­tracted pneu­mo­nia while in de­ten­tion, while the other re­port­edly suf­fered from a heart at­tack soon af­ter his ar­rival.

Ko Bo Kyi cau­tioned that the prob­lems at Myin Chan Prison should not be con­sid­ered re­solved with the trans­fer of the war­den, and said more ac­tion is needed.

“This trans­fer is not enough. A proper in­ves­ti­ga­tion should be done and if [the prison head] is found to have bro­ken the rules and reg­u­la­tions, he should face le­gal reper­cus­sions,” Ko Bo Kyi said.

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