Student activists, journalists being mistreated in Insein prison, say family members 

Family members of seven detainees in Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison say that they are being mistreated by prison authorities for not complying with orders. 

The seven prisoners—five student activists and two freelance journalists—had been locked up together since their arrest in late February and March, but were separated on April 22 for refusing to read out the prison rules.

They spent the next week in solitary confinement, and have since been placed in different cells with criminal prisoners, the family members said.

“They each have to share a cell with more than a hundred criminals who are facing long years of imprisonment. They have been separated and can’t see each other,” said a relative of detained activist Hpone Htet Naung.

Student activists Wai Yan Phyo Moe, Aung Hpone Maw, Lay Pyay Soe Moe, Thuta Soe, and Hpone Htet Naung are facing charges of incitement under Section 505a for taking part in anti-coup protests.

Demonstrators react after being exposed to teargas fired by the police during a protest in Naypyitaw on March 8 (EPA)

Freelance journalists Soe Yarzar Tun and Banyar Oo were arrested while covering the protests. They have also been charged with incitement, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

All seven are being tried by a special court inside Insein Prison, according to relatives, who say that they have denied access to the prisoners.

The family members said that the young detainees have received threats from criminal prisoners and are completely at the mercy of prison officials to resolve conflicts.

“They aren’t being treated like political prisoners. They’re being treated like criminals. This is not right. They’re drained mentally and physically,” said a relative of one of the prisoners.

Thet Naung, a lawyer representing Wai Yan Phyo Moe and Hpone Htet Naung, said his clients have also expressed concern about their current situation.

“They told me at a hearing that they’ve been worried about their safety since they were placed with criminals,” he told Myanmar Now.

One of the relatives said that the prisoners were being mistreated because of their strong political stance.

“They were fighting for the truth. Student leaders like them are being oppressed so that they can no longer defy the military. It’s like a warning. It’s political persecution,” he said.

However, the family members said they were confident that the detainees would not give in to pressure.

“The military puts dissidents in prison, barely keeping them alive. It is killing their futures. But I believe my son will keep fighting until his last breath. He is strong-willed and has a strong stance,” said Wai Yan Phyo Moe’s mother.


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