‘They lied to us’ – families hit out at juvenile prison after murder of two inmates 

Two teenagers died at a Mandalay juvenile detention center after “severe beatings” by older inmates, the Chair of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) has said.

Speaking to Myanmar Now on Tuesday, Hla Myint called for an investigation into the center and for the perpetrators to be punished.

“Detainees disciplined the boys by beating them… and it got out of control,” he said.

“I am not sure if it is a [common] practice at the centre,” he added. 

Two commissioners from MNHRC’s Yangon branch joined a team on a visit to the center last week to probe the deaths, he said.

The two boys were among seven teenagers from Monywa who were sentenced to two years in juvenile detention for a  2019 robbery they were accused of. 

Five days after their arrival at the center, five of the seven tried to escape. Older detainees then chased them down and beat them as punishment. 

Pyae Phyo Maung, 18, died the same day of his injuries while Khaing Zaw Tun, also 18, died five days later.

Hla Myint said his commissioners reported their findings on Monday to the home affairs and social welfare ministries.

“We urged the home affairs ministry to punish who is responsible and the social welfare department to do an internal investigation,” he said.

The centre is built to accommodate 200 detainees but is currently dealing with 500, he added.  

Kyaw Swar Lin, Khaing Zaw Tun’s brother, said the family will file a case against the center when they receive confirmation of the cause of death.

“It’s very unfair that my brother had to die. We’re filing a case once we get the cause of death certificate. And we’ll send out more letters reporting this case to different authorities,” he told Myanmar Now.

‘These are the consequences of running away’

Nay Aung Kyaw, the center’s principal, told Myanmar Now that internal investigations into the teenagers’ deaths were underway. The center was in touch with family members, he said. 

“Staff members, including myself, and the students are all being investigated,” he added.

The investigation team includes Dr San San Aye and Khin Khin Myo, the director general and deputy director of the social welfare ministry.

Two other teenagers who ran away from the center were hospitalized and are now in good shape, Nay Aung Kyaw said. 

The cause of death of the two teens would only be known after the forensics results, he said, but he admitted older detainees beat new ones in certain situations.

“If they’re recaptured, the boys are gonna have fights. I’m not going to deny that because this is a juvenile center,” he said. “If a detainee escapes, we come up with a new rule. So the boys probably thought they would lose their privileges because of the ones who escaped and picked fights. These are the negative consequences of running away.”  

The center was managing 496 detainees with just 25 staff members, he added, and it was low on staff the day the boys ran away because it was a national holiday.

“One jumped in the moat. When we were worried and trying to get him back, the kid who died ran towards the shops near the zoo. He dived in a creek to hide and only came out because he couldn’t breath,” he said. 

‘They lied to us’

Pyae Phyo Maung’s mother Myo Myo Htwe, said the center gave her inconsistent information about her son’s death. 

“When they phoned us, they said our boy died after drowning and suffocating,” she told Myanmar Now. “But we didn’t see him at all near the creek in the CCTV footage.” 

Instead, she said, the video showed him “being kicked and dragged” before “other detainees started beating him too.”

Family members saw bruises and injuries around his face and head when they went to see his body at the hospital. They weren’t allowed to bring the body home and buried him with the help of the hospital, Myo Myo Htwe said.

Khaing Zaw Tun’s parents believe their son’s death was a result of abuse by staff. They found bruises along his back and injuries around his eye, they said. 

Win Maw, his father, said that after his son was hospitalized on July 31 the center lied and said he was still at the center.

“He was hospitalized and they lied to us,” Win Maw said. “Their voice was very stern. They only told us he was hospitalized after we begged and cried to see our son after we heard about the other kid’s death. 

“When we came to the hospital, he couldn’t speak. We only got to look after him for one night. The other kid’s parents only got to see their son after his body had been blessed,” he added. 

Both teenagers were from Aung Chan Thar in Monywa. Khaing Zaw Tun’s brother, Kyaw Swar Lin said his brother was innocent of the robbery he was convicted for.

“When he was arrested, he only had 8,000 kyat and a phone on him. He didn’t do anything. And he didn’t plead at the court. But he was with a group of friends and labelled a robber,” he said.

Family members were allowed to see his body on August 6, after the forensic examination.

“We don’t know how to proceed with this and only ask for justice. Anyone who could help us, please report this injustice so that the authorities will know,” said Win Maw.

After the first death, family members of the other teenagers who escaped were concerned their children may also die and requested to see them. But they got permission only on Aug 6, after the second boy died.

Translated by Htet Aung Lwyn

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