Nine members of the anti-regime People’s Defence Force (PDF) broke out of Taungoo Prison in Bago Region on Thursday morning, in a daring escape that reportedly left one guard dead.
The nine escapees were among 10 prisoners who forced their way out of a lock-up room where they were being held ahead of a hearing at a special court inside the prison.
The nine men and one woman had been in junta custody since their arrest five months ago, according to a spokesperson for the Bago Region chapter of the PDF, which is under the command of the publicly mandated National Unity Government.
The prisoners managed to escape by snatching the guns of the guards who had transferred them from their cells to the lock-up room, the spokesperson said.
“Our comrades grabbed their guns and made their getaway. They were pursued and had a shootout,” he said, speaking to Myanmar Now early Friday.
He added that one of the prisoners was shot in the leg in the exchange of fire and had to be left behind. The others have since reached secure locations with the help of resistance groups operating in the area, he said.
Further details of the PDF member who did not get away were not available at the time of reporting.
According to an internal police report leaked on social media, three of the escapees, including the woman, were on death row after being convicted of capital crimes for their guerrilla activities.
Two soldiers on security duty at the prison were shot and one was killed during the shootout that ensued as the prisoners fled, the statement added.
The prison is located inside the moat of Taungoo’s old city, which was one of Myanmar’s ancient capitals. The city is located about 70 miles southeast of the current capital, Naypyitaw.
Taungoo Prison is also where Win Myint, Myanmar’s ousted civilian president, has been held since his transfer from the Naypyitaw Detention Centre earlier this year. He is currently serving a total of 14 years behind bars following his conviction on multiple charges laid against him by the military regime that seized power in February 2021.
Thursday’s breakout would likely result in tougher security measures, according to a local woman with access to the prison.
“The main road in front of the prison is normally blocked at both ends, and those who want to send parcels to [relatives] being held inside have always had to go through tight security. But those restrictions will be even tighter now,” she said.
Parts of Bago Region are controlled by the Karen National Union, an ethnic armed group that has been allied with the PDF since the latter was formed in the wake of the military takeover.
There have been several prison breaks in Myanmar since the coup, including one in September of last year that saw the escape of five young activists in Magway Region’s Pakokku Township.