Myanmar army officer appointed as the new Prison Department chief

The military council announced via regime-controlled newspapers on Wednesday that they had chosen an officer to serve as director-general of the Prison Department, part of the junta’s home affairs ministry. 

Myanmar Now has yet to confirm the career history or other biographical details about the new appointee, Myo Swe, but based on the military’s usual procedure for assigning military officers to administrative duties, he is believed to have served at or above the rank of colonel.

According to published statements, Myo Swe has been appointed to the post of director-general of the department on a probationary basis. 

The director-general post to be filled by Myo Swe is a top-level position in the Prison Department. Of approximately 20 Myanmar army officers transferred to the department since the coup of February 2021, all were captains assigned to positions at the lower, supervisory level.

This is the second time the military council has replaced the department’s director-general in the two years since the coup of 2021. Myo Swe is taking over from acting director-general Zaw Min, whom the military installed in the position on a temporary basis on February 3, 2021, two days after seizing power.

Zaw Min is reputedly responsible for the widespread beatings of political detainees in Myanmar’s prisons, for which the European Union imposed sanctions against him in November 2022, at the same time they sanctioned coup regime leader Min Aung Hlaing.

A total of 23,802 people have been arrested since the coup, 19,427 of whom are still detained and 6,802 of whom are serving prison sentences as of July 12, 2023, according to data maintained by the human rights organisation Assistance Association for Poliitical Prisoners (AAPP).

Myanmar’s prisons are notorious for the poor living conditions and mistreatment endured by inmates. 

Last week, two detainees held at Yangon’s Insein Prison and accused of assassinating pro-junta singer and propagandist Lily Naing Kyaw were reportedly summarily executed

AAPP has also reported that up to 150 political prisoners have died from abuse by prison authorities during interrogation, or due to lack of access to adequate medical care. The figure is an estimate based only on the facts AAPP was able to substantiate and may be higher. 

Since May, scores of detainees in Mandalay Region’s Myingyan Prison have been killed or gone missing after being removed from their cells for interrogation, some on suspicion of receiving and using mobile phones in violation of the prison rules. 

Prisoners were also killed or missing after being separated from their fellow inmates since May in Bago Region’s Daik-U Prison, where the military also reportedly arrested, interrogated, and beat prison staff members in late June for allegedly assisting detainees under their watch to communicate with resistance forces.

In accordance with the 2008 Constitution of Myanmar, the ministry of home affairs operates under the military’s direct control. The current home affairs minister for the junta is Lt-Gen Soe Htut, a close associate of Min Aung Hlaing.

Soe Htut was directly involved in the junta’s hanging of four political prisoners, including longtime pro-democracy activist Ko Jimmy, 53, and former member of parliament Phyo Zayar Thaw, 41, in July of last year.

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