Magway student protester who lost hand in junta attack again excluded from prisoner release

Hlyan Phyo Aung, the student protester brutally maimed and subsequently arrested during a military assault on a protest in his hometown of Magway in March, was not among those released by the military this week, a source close to his family told Myanmar Now.

The 22-year-old civil engineering student is facing incitement charges under Section 505a of the Penal Code. 

The military council announced on Monday that a total of 1,316 detainees would be released from its prisons and charges would be withdrawn against 4,320. The news prompted Hlyan Phyo Aung’s family to wait in front of Magway Prison “from dawn until dusk” for three days, according to a source close to his family, only to learn that he had not been selected for release. 

“They once waited for seven whole days in front of the prison back in June. It’s getting harder to speculate. I don’t know what’s going to happen anymore,” the family friend said. 

Hlyan Phyo Aung was reportedly expecting to be freed along with more than 2,000 others in the junta’s first mass prisoner release on June 30. Thirty-six detainees were released from Magway Prison at that time, including two of his cellmates who were detained at the same protest as him and facing the same charge under the same lawsuit, a relative said at the time. 

The relative added that they had hoped Hlyan Phyo Aung would be released in June on medical grounds because of his serious injuries. He was admitted to a military hospital after a soldier shot and destroyed his already wounded right hand at a rally in Magway on March 27. The hand was then amputated. 

Incitement charges were filed against him in April and he was transferred from the military hospital to the Magway Prison in early June, even though doctors said he urgently needed eye surgery to replace his cornea. His eyes were damaged by soldiers firing their weapons close to his face, according to the family friend. He has yet to receive the surgery. 

“He isn’t getting medical treatment. His eye needs surgery and they’re not allowing him to get it,” the friend said.  

Hlyan Phyo Aung’s extensive injuries also include rubber bullet wounds after he was shot at close range at his left hand and his leg, limiting his mobility and requiring physical therapy, which he has yet to receive. 

Because his court hearings—which began at the time of the first prisoner release—were postponed during the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic which hit Myanmar in July, Hlyan Phyo Aung has not been permitted to meet with his lawyers and the state of his health was not known at the time of reporting.  

“We’ve lost all forms of contact with him, let alone being unable to meet in person with him,” his friend said, adding that he had heard it was possible to send letters to the prison. 

Hlyan Phyo Aung’s family refused to comment on the situation. The relative who previously spoke to Myanmar Now said they feared the attention on Hlyan Phyo Aung’s case was the reason the junta had not yet released him. 

The underground National Unity Government included his case in a report submitted to the International Criminal Court on atrocities committed by the military council.  

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