Amnesty International Condemns Treatment of Myanmar Prisoners Kept in ‘Dog Cells’ After Protests
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(Washington, D.C.) – The Myanmar authorities must stop forcing prisoners into cells designed for military dogs, Amnesty International said today, after it emerged that the practice is being used as punishment against hunger striking activists.
Seven prisoners, including two Buddhist monks who went on hunger strike at Insein prison in the main city of Yangon, were placed in solitary confinement between May 24 and 26, in the cells, Amnesty International has learned.
“The shocking accounts of the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment prisoners in Insein prison are being subjected to is yet another example of the utter disregard for the most basic human rights by authorities in Myanmar,” said Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International’s Myanmar researcher. “Authorities in Myanmar must immediately stop any ill-treatment of prisoners. Any official suspected of being responsible for such offenses must be suspended and prosecuted.”
One political prisoner who was held in a dog cell in the past at Insein reported that the space was covered in white lice and smelt like a sewer. Others have reported that they were periodically denied food and water while in the cell.
At least three female political prisoners started the hunger strike on May 17 at Insein prison, in protest against a government decision to reduce all prison sentences by only one year.
They were joined on May 22 by 22 other political prisoners who started a protest about prison conditions.
On May 24, hunger strikers Aung Kyaw Soe, Nyi Nyi Tun, Nyan Lin Tun, Soe Moe Tun, Zaw Tun Naing and two Buddhist monks, U Vithoddi (aka Wunna Htay) and U Yayvata (aka Ye Min Naung), were placed in dog cells.
They were returned to their usual cells on May 26. Officials reportedly started talks with the protesters around May 27, but when the talks broke down, those political prisoners who decided to continue the hunger strike were again placed in the dog cells.
The dog cells are about 10 feet in length and seven feet wide, windowless and soundproof. There is no proper sanitation, no bed and no mats on the floor.
In a separate development, a number of political prisoners at Kale prison in the north of the country have signed a petition calling for improvements to prison conditions. Among the signatories is the monk and human rights activist U Gambira, currently serving a 68-year sentence for his role in pro-reform demonstrations in August and September 2007.
The petition, sent to President Thein Sein and the U.N. Human Rights Council, stated that all the signatories would go on hunger strike if their demands were not met by May 31.
On May 16 the Myanmar government announced that all current prison sentences were being reduced by one year. However, at least 2,200 political prisoners remain behind bars.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
For more information, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org.