The body of a Myanmar villager who died in prison this week was handed over to family members on Thursday, with prison authorities forcing relatives to sign a pledge beforehand not to raise a fuss over wounds seen on the body suggesting the man was killed in custody.
Tun Myint Win, who was arrested on May 15 for protesting the construction of a Chinese-backed cement factory in the country’s central Mandalay region, died Wednesday morning in Mandalay’s Oh-boe Prison, sources told RFA.
He had been in good health at the time of his arrest, sources said.
Cuts and other injuries seen on Tun Myint Win’s body by family members at Mandalay Hospital, where he had been taken on Wednesday for a post-mortem examination, indicate he may have been killed by authorities during questioning, relatives and friends told RFA’s Myanmar Service on Thursday.
“The doctor let us see his body, and we found blood coming from his ear,” Tun Myint Win’s elder brother U Wimala, a Buddhist monk, said.
“There were cuts and bruises on his face and head, and I saw a pool of blood. There was also a wound on the left side of his ribs that had been sewn shut,” he said, adding, “There were also several lacerations on his back.”
Than Htike, a resident of Tun Myint Win’s Aungthabyae village who accompanied family members to the hospital, said that they had been allowed by a doctor to see Tun Myint Win’s body before a post-mortem was performed.
“We were not allowed to take pictures of the body, but we saw there had been bleeding from one ear and from the mouth, and one side of his face was severely bruised and lacerated,” he said.
Forced to sign
Prison authorities told the family that all medical records relating to the case would be released through them, and forced family members to sign a document “promising not to start any disturbances, using the [condition of] the body as a pretext,” Than Htike said.
“His brother the monk didn’t want to sign it, but we persuaded him to sign, and eventually he did,” Than Htike said.
“After that, they let us have the body,” he said.
Speaking to RFA, prison warden Tun Tun said that Tun Myint Win had died of a fever and “appeared to have had a lot to drink” before he was transferred by police to the Oh-boe Prison on June 3.
“As part of our prison procedure, we examine the medical condition of all new inmates, and after we examined him we found that he had a fever. We provided him with medical treatment at the prison hospital as required, but he passed away at 7:00 a.m. on June 5,” he said.
“His family wants to make their own arrangements to cremate the body, so we asked them to sign a pledge not to do anything against the law.”
Call to investigate
Reached by RFA for comment, Wunna Maung—surgeon in charge of the morgue at Mandalay Hospital—requested a letter “from top officials” permitting him to speak.
“Ask for it through the embassy,” he said. “If you provide us with an official letter, we will give you the details.”
Myanmar’s government should now conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Tun Myint Win’s death, Thein Than Oo, an attorney, said.
“I was in prison myself for many years, and in those days prison authorities were known to have a license to kill,” he said.
“They’d just file a document reporting an ‘accidental death.’”
“They handled prisoners very inhumanely during the rule of the military government, but this not acceptable now, as we have a civilian government in power. They should form a committee of inquiry to determine where [Tun Myint Win] died, and how,” he said.
Reported by Khin Khin Ei for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung and Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Richard Finney.