Junta authorities execute political prisoner outside detention facility in Dawei

After the military took Win Thiha and another inmate out of Dawei Prison and fatally shot Win Thiha, the whereabouts of the other inmate are still unknown

Military personnel removed two political prisoners from the detention centre where they were being held in Dawei, Tanintharyi Region this month before shooting one of them dead, according to sources close to the victims’ relatives. 

The slain prisoner, Win Thiha, was serving a seven-year sentence in Dawei Prison for charges under Sections 51a and 52c of the Counterterrorism Law and Section 505a of the Penal Code, on incitement. 

He had been in junta custody since his arrest on February 7, 2021, less than a week after the military coup. 

Authorities notified his family of his death last Saturday but did not return his body, a family associate said. 

“The family visited him on March 13 and that was the last time they saw each other,” said the family’s associate, who asked not to be identified. “He was no longer there when the family went to visit him on March 20, a week later, and the prison authorities notified the family of his death on March 23. The body was never returned.” 

The Dawei Prison Department reportedly told the family that Win Thiha was shot dead while trying to escape. Authorities had taken him out of the prison so he could show them some form of evidence, the department claimed.

Win Thiha

The rights advocacy organisation Political Prisoners’ Network of Myanmar (PPNM) issued a statement on Thursday calling the authorities’ explanation for Win Thiha’s death absurd, alleging that they were withholding crucial information from the public about the incident. 

The PPNM also called on the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations to scrutinise Win Thiha’s case as well as other instances in which authorities unlawfully removed inmates from prison facilities. 

Authorities executed several inmates incarcerated at Daik-U Prison in Bago Region in July of last year after removing them from the prison, purportedly to transfer them to another facility. The authorities alleged that the prisoners had tried to escape custody on that occasion too.  

The victims were Pyae Phyo Aung, Aung Myo Thu, Zin Myint Tun, Arkar Thet Paing Myo, Bo Bo Win, Wai Yan Lwin, and Zin Win Htut, and Khant Lin Naing, a vice chair of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions. 

The publicly mandated National Unity Government—a cabinet formed and endorsed by ousted civilian leaders in 2021 to oppose the coup regime—sent a letter to Australia’s parliament and foreign affairs ministry the same month, informing them that the military council had already killed more than 20 prisoners held at three detention facilities during transfers. 

Zoe Daniel, a member of parliament representing the Goldstein constituency in the state of Victoria, requested that the Australian government take more decisive action against the military regime considering these incidents.

The following month, the military arrested Dawei Prison’s superintendent and deputy superintendent following rumours of illegal drug trafficking inside the facility. Most of the prison personnel were transferred elsewhere. 

However, conditions had not improved for prisoners under the new superintendent, former army officer Nyan Lin Aung, sources close to the prison said. 

After an unscheduled inspection by prison department personnel at Dawei Prison on March 16 of this year, authorities reportedly placed over 20 inmates in solitary confinement and beat them for allegedly using hidden mobile phones on the prison ground.

Win Thiha was one of two prisoners that authorities allegedly removed from the prison building that day with a bag over his head. 

Four Dawei Prison inmates were put in solitary confinement during these events, and one of their relatives said that the military had been keeping a close watch on the same four prisoners’ families. 

“We have to worry about when they may kill our loved ones because they’re like water in their hands,” the prisoner’s relative said. 

Regime-run outlets said that authorities had only placed eight prisoners in solitary confinement and denied that any beatings had occurred. 

A source recently released from Dawei Prison said that authorities had placed Myat Ko, Tanintharyi Region’s former chief minister, into solitary confinement without giving a reason. 

According to data collected by the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, there 20,286 political detainees throughout Myanmar as of March 27, and 4,797 civilians have been killed by the military since the coup. The military council disputes the accuracy of these figures.

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