Protests break out inside Insein Prison following activists’ execution

Inmates in Insein Prison launched a protest on Monday morning in response to a junta announcement that four political prisoners who had been held in the Yangon jail were executed over the weekend.

Several people who took part in the uprising were physically assaulted by prison authorities and around 15 were put in cells separate from the general population, according to a source close to the affected prisoners. 

“I heard that the protesters were dragged out of their accommodation and beaten,” he said, adding that soldiers had been deployed to the prison and that the abuse had been overseen by a military officer. 

The source told Myanmar Now that the junta had cut off all outside communication with staff inside Insein after information leaked about the covert Saturday execution of pro-democracy activist Ko Jimmy and former National League for Democracy MP Phyo Zayar Thaw, as well as two additional death row prisoners, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw.

“I am not sure if they are going to put the prison on lockdown to prevent the protest from spreading throughout the jail,” the source said.

Another source with ties to the prison said the soldiers had come to question inmates and staff regarding the information leak, and that the demonstrations began once they arrived and began interrogations.

Myanmar Now tried to contact the junta’s Prisons Department regarding the situation unfolding inside Insein, but the calls went unanswered. 

A junta mouthpiece reported the news of the executions on Monday, only stating that “the punishment [was] conducted under the prison’s procedures.” 

Longtime activists Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zayar Thaw were sentenced to death in January for allegedly plotting to carry out attacks on regime targets, and had been in military custody since being arrested late last year. Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw were handed the same sentence by a military tribunal in Yangon for allegedly murdering military informants.

Family members of the victims were reportedly told by prison authorities that none of the four bodies would be returned to them.

According to figures released by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners on July 22, a total of 117 people have been sentenced to death by military tribunals since last year’s coup, including 41 who were sentenced in absentia and two who are children under age 18. 

Authorities in Insein have been accused of carrying out frequent brutal beatings in response to prisoners’ protests, including on Martyrs’ Day, commemorated on July 19, when inmates asked to be provided with the opportunity to pay respect to fallen activists.

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