Political prisoners on hunger strike at Mandalay’s Obo Prison have been beaten and placed in solitary confinement since August 3, and are being denied medical treatment, said prison sources.
Some 19 political prisoners are currently being held in solitary confinement. Four are anti-regime protesters, including Ko Naung Htet Aung from the Basic Education General Strike Committee, who were placed in solitary confinement on August 3. Another 15 political prisoners were placed in solitary after August 9, according to prison sources.
Relatives and colleagues are concerned about the health of Ko Naung Htet Aung, a former chairperson of the Yangon Education University Students Union, who was badly beaten by prison authorities.
A member of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) said: “Ko Naung Htet Aung lost three teeth and was also beaten on his head and shoulders. We have learned that political prisoners including him are being denied medical treatment. So we are working for them to be able to receive medical treatment.”
Ko Naung Htet Aung was sentenced on August 10 to three years in jail by a junta court inside Obo Prison for incitement under Section 505(a) of the Penal Code, said an ABFSU member.
Political prisoners being held at Obo staged a hunger strike from August 1 in protest at the military regime’s executions of pro-democracy activists Ko Jimmy, Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, Ko Hla Myo Aung and Ko Aung Thura Zaw. Some 40 anti-junta prisoners joined the hunger strike and on August 3 four of them were placed in solitary confinement.
On August 9, a prisoner being held for criminal offences seized a care package sent to a political prisoner with the same name. A brawl erupted when political prisoners complained to prison authorities about the incident. Anti-regime protesters were subsequently beaten by a prison official and convicts being held for committing crimes.
As many as 30 political prisoners were beaten and 15 were subsequently placed in solitary confinement.
An ABFSU member said that the prison authorities instigated the brawl between the political prisoners and criminal prisoners, as they needed an excuse to punish the political prisoners on hunger strike.
“Political prisoners are being held with criminal prisoners. Criminal prisoners have taken the care packages sent to political prisoners. When the political prisoners complained, the prison authorities got the criminal prisoners to beat political prisoners. The political prisoners were then placed in solitary confinement. It was a deliberate set-up by the prison authorities,” said the ABFSU member.
The ABFSU said that it supported the political prisoners’ hunger strike as a way of demonstrating opposition to the unfair judicial system.
The anti-regime prisoners on hunger strike are demanding that prisoners on death row be spared, that political prisoners be released as requested by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, that political prisoners be allowed visits by relatives and that restrictions on their rights be lifted.
The ABFSU and student unions have called on the public and anti-regime media to publicize the plight of political prisoners at Obo Prison, as the junta has imposed a news blackout on their ill-treatment.
Some 125 people have been given death sentences by regime courts since last year’s coup, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners.