Authorities at the Daik-U Prison in Bago Region have separated 15 political prisoners from their fellow inmates since last week, according to sources connected to the prison community.
The first removals occurred on Thursday, with seven of the detainees taken out of their cells, according to one of the sources.
“The prison authorities threatened to summon a special response squad and coerce the prisoners if they didn’t come with them willingly,” said the source, who requested anonymity.
Another source familiar with events at the prison confirmed the removal, but neither source knows the reason for removing the prisoners or where the authorities sent them.
Eight more political prisoners were taken on Saturday morning. Although cells are usually left unlocked during the day, authorities locked the remaining prisoners in their cells after removing their fellow inmates on Saturday, according to the second source.
“More of them were taken this morning and the cells are still locked,” an anonymous source told Myanmar Now on Saturday afternoon.
“They sometimes took prisoners out for questioning around three months ago, but never as many prisoners as this time. It was the Military Security Affairs department that used to take them. They would beat them during questioning, and accuse the political prisoners of having connections to the PDF,” the source said.
The political prisoners removed from their cells were identified as Pyae Phyo Hein, also known as Aung Pyae; Aung Thura Hlaing, also known as Zee Laung; Arkar Htet Paing Myo, also known as Nay Aye; Saw Malakee; Yar Lay; San Yu Kyaw; Bala Gyi; Ye Naing; Thant Zin Win; Bo Win; Htet Lin Naing; Aung Myo Thu; Ger Gyi; Ko Pyae and Chit Kaung.
One of the prisoners removed from his cell on Thursday, Thant Zin Win, died one day later, according to a statement issued by the People’s Defence Team of Bago Township on May 27. Thant Zin Win had served as a recruitment officer for the resistance force, the statement said, and had received a prison sentence of more than 80 years.
The statement also noted that the Thant Zin Win’s family had not been notified, and that prison authorities had refused to answer any inquiries.
Prison authorities in Mandalay Region’s Myingyan Prison also took 12 prisoners out of their cells for interrogation in a similar incident last week, prompting their fellow inmates to initiate a hunger strike.
A political prisoner held at Myingyan named Oakkar died from beatings by the prison authorities. The authorities had accused the inmates of keeping and using mobile phones in violation of the prison rules, according to a statement from the Monywa People’s Strike Committee, relayed to Myanmar Now on May 24.
The military council has not released a statement regarding the incidents at either prison.
Tate Naing, secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said that the events at the prisons showed the military’s ability to act with total impunity.
“The military is acting as if it’s fully above the law, and it’s very difficult to monitor what is happening inside the prisons so they’ve become places for the worst kind of cruelty and torture. Recently we’ve been hearing more often about prison authorities acting erratic and increasingly hostile towards the prisoners,” Tate Naing told Myanmar Now on Sunday.
AAPP has recorded the names and personal details of more than 18,000 political prisoners throughout the country.