A postcard from prison
by Mizzima News
Monday, 15 December 2008 20:42
[The aim of the following letter, written in the first week of December 2008 and sent out at great risk by a prisoner in Buthidaung prison in Burma’s Rhakine state, is to present the appalling conditions in the prison to Minister of Home Affairs Maung Oo, in order to effect improvements and to request the authorities to grant prisoners their rights, as promised. As the prisoner who sent this letter wrote: “It is very difficult to send a letter like this out, but it is very important for us all, so we are attempting this and encouraging everyone to receive it openly.”]
The SPDC [Burmese military government] said they will work toward a democratic process and make positive changes in human rights. But the head of the Burma Human Rights Committee and Home Affairs Minister, Maung Oo, should know that the situation in prisons is much worse now than it was before. The director general of prisons said that he has made changes to the prison situation, but this has only happened in Insein prison in Rangoon, whereas more remote prisons are still operating like they were in the 1989-90 period. Nothing has changed, it is in fact worse.
It is especially difficult for prisoner’s families to go to Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states, and the prison governors behave like kings. They take the opportunity to pressure, torture, and take bribes. In Rakhine state there are prisons in Sittwe, Chauk Pyu, Thandwe, and Buthidaung. Most of the prisoners are Bangladeshi and most of the staff is Rakhine, so there is a lot of discrimination and pressure toward the prisoners and, therefore, many human rights abuses. There is supposed to be a legal quota of rice for prisoners, but they give less than the quota.
The Minister of Home Affairs gave instructions to “stop colonialism and protect the nation and people.” But the jailers still treat the prisoners as masters would treat slaves. They behave like owners of thousands of slaves. They use the prisoners to do jobs like brick making, fish and agricultural farming. They use the prisoners as slaves to make profits of thousands of lakhs of kyat (one lakh is equal to 100,000 and one dollar is equal to 1,250 kyat).
The infamous prison of Buthidaung has a chief jailer named U Sein Htun. He slaps the prisoners with his shoe and if he dislikes the prisoner he makes him wear iron bars between his ankles connected by iron rods to a waistband. He leaves the leg irons on for as long as he pleases. The prisoners do not have enough water to wash, so they get scabies and Beri-Beri (a thiamine deficiency). They suffer from vitamin deficiencies as well as swelling to their private parts, stomachs, arms and legs.
They do not have the rights that are to be accorded prisoners. For example, they cannot change prison uniforms, they do not receive blankets, they cannot get a clean change of clothes and they do not have a chance for proper exercise. In Insein prison, inmates receive these rights, in addition to privileges such as television viewing, but in Buthidaung they cannot dream of opportunities like this. The governor makes a lot of money from the labor of the prisoners, but the prisoners do not get enough food or healthcare. Many prisoners die in this prison.
There are at least ten political prisoners who are treated very rudely [in Buthidaung], including Htay Kywe, Pyi Phyoe Hlaing and Sithu Maung, all of whom were transferred from Insein prison. Their situation is critical. They live in an eight by ten foot room and have no opportunity to go outside for a walk. Lower-level prison officers treat them rudely.
The prisoners are treated the same way in Sittwe prison. Most of the Bangladeshi prisoners are in poor health. One syringe is used to treat all prisoners, creating a situation where many prisoners are HIV positive or are afflicted by AIDS.
One political prisoner in Sittwe, Than Tin, a member of the 88 generation group, has been put in with the death row prisoners, while Ko Thein Swe and the monk Shin Sanda Thiri are also in Sittwe prison and do not receive prisoners’ rights and consequently are both in poor health. Additionally, recently, Aung Thu, another member of the 88 generation, was transferred from Insein to Putao [in the far north of the country], where he is in very bad health because the authorities do not take proper care of him.
[According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), the political prisoner population in Burma has doubled to over 2,000 from the pre-2007 uprising figure. Additionally, November saw the military government hand down an unprecedented flurry of lengthy prison terms to political prisoners in courts conducted inside Burma’s prisons, followed by the transfer of several individuals to remote areas of the country.]
NB. This full news story from Mizzima is posted here for those who cannot open the original website.
Tortured in Burma under the military regime
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