Families Still Denied Access to Detained Students

By Nang Seng Nom 20 March 2015

RANGOON — Anxious parents still loiter outside Pegu Division’s Tharyarwaddy Prison, hoping to catch a glimpse or even a just a health update of their children, who have been locked inside for more than a week.

Ninety-eight students, many of them members of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, remain in detention since their arrest during a brutal crackdown on a protest site in Letpadan on March 10.

Family members of several inmates said they have been denied visits from day one. Prison officials could not be reached for comment.

“Since our children were arrested, we have waited at the entrance everyday to send things to them,” said Khin Khin Yu, whose son, Min Thwe Thit, is behind bars. She said the prison guards won’t let parents see or speak with their children, or deliver basic items such as mosquito nets.

Infrequent health updates are sometimes relayed by the guards, but parents and a lawyer said that was not sufficient access.

Lawyer and rights advocate Robert San Aung told The Irrawaddy that the lack of access violates not only of human rights, but Burma’s prison rules.

“The prison guidebook clearly states that prisoners are entitled to meet their family members,” Robert San Aung said.

“This shows disrespect for human rights and a return to the old practice of intelligence personnel of not allowing those arrested for political reasons to hire a lawyer or meet with their family members.”

Police dismantled a core column of student demonstrations in Letpadan earlier this month in a violent display of baton-wielding authority that left many injured and 127 jailed.

Twenty-nine people have since been released, including two journalists, while those who remain face various charges including rioting, incitement and intentional harm to public servants.