Myanmar prison gets ‘notorious’ reputation following deaths

Abuse and lack of medical treatment have left 15 political prisoners dead since last May.
By RFA Burmese
2024.03.18
Myanmar prison gets ‘notorious’ reputation following deaths Authorities are seen at Daik-U Central Prison in Myanmar’s Bago region, Feb. 24, 2023.
(Myanmar military)

At least 15 political prisoners have died at Daik-U Prison in central Myanmar since last May, earning the prison in a remote area of Bago region a notorious reputation for abuse and neglect, aid workers and former prisoners told Radio Free Asia.

The 15 deaths include two since early February, according to sources close to family members. Those two men – 64-year-old Khin Soe and 68-year-old Aye Win – were serving long-term sentences and didn’t have access to health care at the prison, the sources told Radio Free Asia.

Aye Win died on Feb. 9 and had been serving an eight-year sentence that included a conviction under Section 505 (a), which was added to the penal code after the Feb. 1, 2021, military coup d’etat to punish comments or implications that the coup or the military is illegitimate. The cause of his death was unknown.

Junta authorities arrested Khin Soe when they were unable to capture his son, a person close to the family said. His health had worsened in the months before his March 6 death, the family friend said.

ENG_BUR_DaikUDeaths_03182024.1 (2).jpg
Daik-U Central Prison in Bago region is seen in this undated photo. (Citizen journalist)

“We couldn’t do anything,” the friend said. “One of my friends advised us to voice the lack of medical treatment for him through the news media. But we were afraid his family would be made to suffer if we did.”

The junta’s Ministry of Information on Saturday said Khin Soe died from a longtime stomach illness while being transferred from the prison’s hospital to the Daik-U township People’s Hospital. It denied that the prison lacks medical treatment. 

‘Abruptly changed’

Daik-U Prison was built to hold about 1,000 inmates. The first set of prisoners were transferred into the facility in 2017 during a time when the country was led by a civilian government.

After the 2021 coup, prison authorities stopped providing adequate treatment and refused to allow inmates to receive shipments of medicine from outside the prison, former inmates told RFA. 

Former prisoners also said that political inmates suffered physically from frequent interrogation sessions and were malnourished from not getting enough food and water.

They also weren’t allowed to do physical exercise because authorities suspected the exercises would help prisoners flee.

Daik-U Prison has earned a reputation since the coup for being particularly harsh, said Thaik Tun Oo, a member of the Leading Committee for Political Prisoners Network-Myanmar, or PPNM.

“The situation has abruptly changed,” he said. “The prisoners are being kept in a strict and oppressive manner.”

A legal expert in Yangon said the prison is being run in an illegal manner, and should be examined by government officials.

“This type of repression on political prisoners is also not acceptable in terms of social justice,” he said. 

RFA contacted Naing Win, deputy director general of the junta’s Prisons Department, for his comment on the deaths at Daik-U Prison, but he didn’t answer his phone.

In 2023, a total of 34 political prisoners died in prisons nationwide. Among them, 18 were killed in prison and 16 died after not receiving full medical treatment, according to PPNM.

As of March 14, some 26,242 people have been arrested for political reasons since the coup, according to a report from the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners. Nearly 9,000 of those arrestees are currently serving prison terms, the group said.

Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.

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