Prison inmates tortured and starved in Myanmar's Hpa-an

At least 60 inmates of Hpa-an Prison, in Kayin State, have been injured in a series of violent incidents involving authorities after two political prisoners escaped over a wall on June 4, sources close to the prison told RFA on Wednesday.

A source close to the prison, who declined to be named for security reasons, said young inmates were attacked from outside the cells. 

“All the children were stabbed with long bamboo sticks from outside the cells at 10 a.m. today. There were a lot of injuries and a lot of blood. And food for the prisoners has not been provided for a whole day, no food at all,” the source said. 

“Last night at about 8:30 p.m., while they were sleeping, the prison authorities got into the cell through the window and beat the inmates with electric sticks and shot them with iron nuts using slingshots. They also pointed guns from outside the cell.”

On June 4, two of the more-than-200 political prisoners in the Gyo Gyar barracks at the prison escaped at noon by climbing a wall with a rope.

A prison guard who witnessed the incident ordered the security guard in the tower to shoot, but no bullets were fired and the men escaped.

Hla Shwe, the new head of Hpa-an Prison, arrived after the incident and told political prisoners to calm down. However, on Monday authorities threatened to move political prisoners from Gyo Gyar barracks to other barracks on orders from the military junta. The prisoners refused, which led to growing tension, which escalated according to sources close to the prison.

“Political prisoners do not want to move elsewhere in the prison because there have been problems between the political prisoners and prisoners jailed for drug use,” said another source close to the prison who also declined to be named. “The drug offenders threaten the political prisoners, saying ‘We all have weapons and you all can be stabbed at any time. We will open your abdomens’ The political prisoners were moved to Gyo Gyar barracks by former prison authorities.”

The source said soldiers arrived on Tuesday accompanied by prison authorities and forcibly dragged the political prisoners to an old barracks inside the prison where they had previously lived.

At least 60 prisoners suffered broken arms and injuries to their foreheads and mouths. They were denied medical treatment and visits were banned on Wednesday according to sources close to the prison.

Prison Department spokesman Khin Shwe denied the allegations and told RFA that prison conditions are normal.

“There is no commotion in Hpa-an Prison,” he said. “Security, administration and discipline are normal.” 

A source close to lawyers who were allowed to visit the prison said some prison staff had been detained and are being investigated over the prison break.

“The day after the riot, officials came to check the prison and some prison staff were arrested. Action was taken at the prison. Court hearings were delayed yesterday and the police were in charge during the hearings. The situation in Hpan-an has now calmed down.”

On May 8, more than 60 political prisoners in Hpan-an Prison were beaten by junta soldiers for singing the anti-regime song ‘Tway Thit Sar’ and banging metal cups and pans, according to another source close to the prison who spoke on condition of anonymity. He told RFA four inmates were injured and 17 were confined to their cells following the incident.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners a total of 10,962 people were arrested in Myanmar between Feb.1, 2021 and June 6, 2022, of which 1,117 were imprisoned.