Human Rights Commission Inspects Shan State Prisons

By Thu Thu Aung 7 August 2017

YANGON — Members of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) arrived in northern Shan State to carry out an inspection of jail cells in police stations and courts in Lashio and Hsipaw, as part of countrywide prison reforms in Myanmar.

During their five-day trip, the inspection group, led by the MNHRC’s U Yu Lwin Aung, is scheduled to meet with three journalists detained in Hsipaw after being charged with violating Article 17(1) of the colonial-era Unlawful Associations Act for having contact with the ethnic armed group the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

On August 4, the Hsipaw Township court judge rejected the journalists’ appeal for bail, saying he did not have enough details about the case to make a judgment.

The military arrested seven people in total—The Irrawaddy’s Lawi Weng, also known as U Thein Zaw, as well as U Aye Nai and U Pyae Bone Naing from the Democratic Voice of Burma—on June 26 in Namhsan on their way back from covering a drug-burning ceremony in TNLA territory.

“We inspected 14 prisons already. The special report of the Commission, which includes the findings of the inspections and recommendations, will be submitted to the government,” U Yu Lwin Aung said.

The MNHRC investigation aims to ensure human rights law is not violated in Myanmar’s prisons and that the UN’s standard minimum rules are met concerning the treatment of prisoners.

There are 46 prisons in Myanmar in total. The prison population—including pre-trial detainees and those remanded during their hearings—was 74,000 as of Dec. 2016, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

On July 14, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners met with the MNHRC and discussed options for prison reform.