Political Prisoners Strike in Insein Prison

21 May 2011

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) learnt today that 22 Political Prisoners are striking for prisoner’s fundamental rights.

Although prisoners are usually allowed 15 minutes per day outside of their cells, the striking prisoners will remain inside their cells as the first step in their protest. As of tomorrow, the prisoners will escalate their demonstration by commencing a “hunger strike” if prison authority does not agree to their demands.

The following situations are reasons why they are striking –

-    Adequate and hygienic daily food supplies have not been issued according to standard prison regulations. The vegetable soup, called “talabaw” was tasteless and of very low quality - just boiling water with substandard ingredients. The watery fish paste was also of very low quality with a bad smell. The lack of standard nutrition has resulted in the outbreak of scabies (a contagious skin disease) with most prisoners now suffering from hypertension.

Under prison regulations, 4.5 ounces of meat is to be served 2 times per week for each prisoner. Currently, prisoners have not received the standard   ration and the meat has been under-cooked. Deputy Director U Hla Kyi, from the Burma Correctional Department said during his interview with Living Colour, a local monthly magazine, in September 2007, “Prison authorities serve fried vegetables to prisoners every week”. However, according to prisoners, they have never received fried vegetables. Fried rice used to be served 3 times per week for breakfast, but this practice ceased after 2007.

-    Prisoners’ uniforms are inadequate, uncomfortable in size, and made from thin cotton materials that can be personally revealing. Wearing these uniforms has degraded the personal dignity of the prisoners.

-    Prisoners are suffering from insect bites, inadequate sleep, and contagious skin diseases. Other communicable diseases are now widespread. Prisoners are suffering from diarrhea, dysentery, malaria, dengue fever and influenza which are caused by contact with mice, rats, flies, and mosquitoes.

-    Insein Prison authorities do not allow prisoners to have official stationery as permitted by prison regulations; newspapers, magazines, reference books including dictionaries, educational and foreign language materials.

-    The new military-backed regime continues its policy of divide and rule by discriminating between political prisoners and common criminal prisoners. Political prisoners are denied the reductions in sentence terms that are often given to criminal prisoners according to the fundamental rights under the standard regulations.

-    Political prisoners are not afforded the same family visiting rights as are provided to foreign prisoners, who are allowed to meet their families face-to-face and speak freely. Family members that visit political prisoners must remain behind a glass and iron barred security screen, with CCTV and prison guards noting all conversations. Political prisoners are denied privacy and cannot speak freely during their family visits.

Therefore we are striking and demanding the following –

Our demands are:

1.    Prisoners must be provided with adequate and hygienic daily food supplies according   to standard prison regulations and be served with fried vegetables every week.

2.    To provide adequate and comfortable sized prisoner uniforms to maintain the personal dignity of prisoners and to replace uniforms once every 6 months, according to standard prison regulations.

3.    The size of the communal living area is around 30 feet by 55 feet for an average of 110 prisoners. Floors must be cleaned and sealed to prevent from insects and rats from entering the prisoners’ living area. Mosquito nets and/or fans must be provided to protect prisoners from mosquito and rodent bites.

4.    To allow prisoners to have official stationery as required, according to prison regulations; newspapers, magazines, reference books including dictionaries,  educational and foreign language materials.

5.    To divide the political prisoners from the common criminal prisoner population and provide separate cells, living areas and facilities.

6.    To allow political prisoners the same family visiting rights that are provided to foreign prisoners. Political prisoners must be given privacy and allowed to speak freely during their family visits.

These demands are in accordance with the standard regulations of the Burma Correctional Department and will be officially forwarded to the Ministry of Home.

From 17 May 2011 to present, women political prisoners have been on a hunger strike in reaction to the announced amnesty by so called new civilian government.

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)

For more information:

Tate Naing (Secretary): +66 (0) 81 287 8751
Bo Kyi (Joint Secretary):    +66 (0) 81 962 8713

Assistant Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
Office Ph: 66-55-545495
Email: info@aappb.org
Web: http://www.aappb.org, http://www.fbppn.net

“There can be no national reconciliation in Burma, as long as there are political prisoners.”

Burma Action Ireland

email: info@burmaactionireland.org web: www.burmaactionireland.org