Inmate killed, 8 in critical condition following crackdown at Myanmar Prison — Radio Free Asia

Prison officers in Myanmar shot and killed a political prisoner on Friday and injured more than 60 other people – including eight critically – after inmates protested their beating of the victim a day earlier, Radio Free Asia has learned.

The incident at Pathein prison is the latest in a series of more than 15 violent crackdowns on protests by political prisoners – which authorities called “riots” – in the nearly two years since Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup.

On Thursday evening, guards discovered a mobile phone in the possession of Wai Yan Phyo, a prisoner of conscience serving 28 years on undisclosed charges, according to sources at Pathein prison and others who assist political prisoners at the facility.

After the discovery, guards pulled Wai Yan Phyo – also known as Mae Gyi – and two other inmates from their cells and beat them all night before returning them on Friday morning, the sources said.

Tun Kyi, a leading member of a rights group known as the Former Political Prisoners’ Society, said that when the three men explained what had happened to them to their fellow prisoners and demanded their release, the authorities refused, sparking a protest from other political prisoners. Guards responded by beating and opening fire on the protesters, he said.

“Around 9:30 a.m., police and prison staff together restrained about 60 prisoners [angering other inmates]. Then the shooting happened,” Tun Kyi said.

“Wai Yan Phyo was hit in the head by three bullets and died on the spot. The main reason was that he was taken out [of his cell] because a mobile phone was found in his possession and [the guards] tortured him all that night,” he added.

Among the injured were Pho La Pyae, Win Min Htet, Soe Yu Kyaw, Wai Zaw Lat, Aung Tun Myint, Kyaw Ye Aung, Ye Thway Ni and an eighth man who has not yet been identified, Tun Kyi said. The eight are in critical condition suffering from gunshot wounds and other injuries.

According to Tun Kyi, the wards housing political prisoners in Pathein Prison are now under tight security.

Later on Friday, the junta’s information team issued a press release, which said that police and prison officials had “initiated security measures to control a riot” in the complex that was “started by inmates who were angry about the investigation of an inmate discovered with a mobile phone .”

The statement also blamed the death and injuries on “a clash” between the two sides. Two police officers and nine prison staff were also injured in the incident, it said.

Responding to reports of the incident, Thailand’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) referred to the authorities’ treatment of Wai Yan Phyo and the two other detainees as “torture” and called it “a serious and flagrant violation of human rights.”

The scene at Pathein prison in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwady region after prison guards killed one prisoner and injured more than 60 on January 6, 2023. Credit: Myanmar military

Series of prison attacks

In August, RFA learned that authorities had violently cracked down on at least 15 peaceful protests by political prisoners since the military coup in Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison, as well as Mandalay’s Ohbo Prison, Tharrawaddy Prison, Kalay Prison, Pathein Prison, Bago Prison and Yay. Prison, based on an analysis of local news reports and interviews with family members of political prisoners.

Authorities killed at least seven prisoners in a single incident at Kalay prison last March that area residents said was the result of an “attack on those protesting ill-treatment” at the facility.

A former political prisoner at Insein Prison told RFA that Myanmar has a unique history of prison protests – with prisoners fighting the military regime from inside prison walls.

After the junta executed four prominent activists in July – the first judicial executions in more than 30 years – prisoners on death row are experiencing renewed trauma and fear for their own fate, he added.

According to AAPP (Burma), authorities in Myanmar have killed more than 2,700 civilians and arrested nearly 17,000 others since the coup – mostly during peaceful anti-junta protests. While authorities have released about 3,500 people, nearly 13,400 have been sentenced to prison or remain in prison.

Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.


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