Hunger Strike Grows at Thayawady Prison as Students Protest Continued Detention

By Nobel Zaw 3 November 2015

RANGOON — A total of seven people have now joined the hunger strike that began at Thayawady Prison, demanding the government drop all charges and release those detained in the aftermath of the Letpadan student protest crackdown.

Mar Naw, one of the detained students, told The Irrawaddy that four more people joined the hunger strike on Monday, following a pledge last week to participate if the government refused to release all prisoners of conscience in Burma.

“Altogether seven people are now participating,” he said. “Other students and supporters plan to join every five days until we get our demands.”

More than 60 people are in Thayawady Prison on charges relating to the Mar. 10 protest, the violent denouement to six weeks of nationwide protests against Burma’s National Education Law. Most have been in detention for nearly eight months, facing prison terms of up to nine and a half years and sitting through a trial subject to numerous adjournments and walkouts by the presiding judge.

Eight students submitted a request to waive their legal counsel on Oct. 27, saying they had lost faith in the court, while on the same day a number of students vowed to join a hunger strike that began on Oct. 23.

At least three hunger strikers have now been hospitalized, according to students. Mar Naw told The Irrawaddy Myo Htet Paing, Aung Hmone San and Myo Myat San required medical attention after prison officers began refusing to provide water to the pair last Wednesday.

“Myo Htet Paing already had a gastric illness. After the prison authorities stopped giving water he became unconscious and was sent to hospital,” said Mar Naw. “Now he has stopped participating in the hunger strike at the request of the ABFSU (All Burma Federation of Student Unions) and is taking medical treatment.”

Students who joined the hunger strike have been moved into solitary confinement by prison authorities. Swe Lin Tun, one of the participants, said that guards were rationing out five cups of water per day to the hunger strikers.

The health of most participants has not reached a critical level but most are reporting the symptoms of low blood sugar and low blood pressure.

Aung Hmone San, a student leader who initiated the Thayawady hunger strike campaign, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday he had lost around 13 kilograms (28 pounds) since he started refusing food 12 days earlier.

Shine Yarzar Tun, an ABFSU spokesperson, told The Irrawaddy that political prisoner Tin Htut Paing, who is serving a sentence at Insein Prison for a 2014 protest outside the Chinese Embassy, had joined the hunger strike. Prisoners of conscience from Myingyan Prison in Mandalay Division had also pledged their support and were planning to participate in the near future.