Twelve political prisoners were placed in solitary confinement on Tuesday after it was learned that they were planning to hold a protest to mark the birthday of Myanmar’s ousted civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
A lawyer familiar with the situation told Myanmar Now that the prisoners had planned to write messages on the palms of their hands and show them during upcoming court hearings inside Yangon’s Insein Prison.
“The prison authorities caught wind of this and had them all thrown into solitary cells,” said the lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Suu Kyi, who turns 77 this coming Sunday, was the de facto leader of Myanmar’s elected civilian government until it was forced from power by the military in February 2021.
Tensions have been high in many of Myanmar’s prisons in recent months, as the junta installed after last year’s coup continues to detain more than 11,000 ordinary citizens opposed to its rule.
Many political prisoners have faced a range of restrictions, including being denied permission to receive letters or care packages from their families. In many cases, they are not even allowed to attend their own court hearings.
There have also been regular reports of far worse abuses.
According to sources inside Insein Prison, at least 10 political prisoners suffered broken bones and other serious injuries after they were brutally beaten earlier this week.
A lawyer who frequently visits the prison said the incident was related to a protest staged by prisoners angered by the regime’s announcement two weeks ago that it would execute veteran student activist Ko Jimmy and former MP Phyo Zayar Thaw and two other prisoners sentenced to death earlier this year.
“The political prisoners went on a hunger strike to protest against the plan to execute Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zayar Thaw,” the lawyer said.
The prison authorities also said that they would continue to escalate their use of force against prisoners if the protests continue.
“They said they had the right to ‘defend’ themselves against prisoners—with batons, swords, or spears, if necessary—if prison rules were not obeyed,” said the lawyer, who did not want to be named.