Overcrowded Katha Prison Criticized by Human Rights Commission

By San Yamin Aung 22 August 2016

RANGOON — In a statement on Friday, Burma’s National Human Rights Commission criticized overcrowding, and inadequate staffing and provisions of water and medicine, at Katha Prison in Sagaing Division, and called for drastic improvements to be made.

During a session of the Union Parliament on July 28, 16 lawmakers debated the commission’s annual report for 2015, directing heavy criticism at its weaknesses—including in promoting prisoners’ rights.

Myint Kyi, a Lower House lawmaker representing Katha Constituency, told Parliament that earlier recommendations from the human rights commission—to build additional sleeping quarters in Burma’s overflowing prisons, fill medical and security staff vacancies, and supply sufficient medicine for prisoners—had not been acted on.

He cited Katha Prison, which was built 120 years ago with a capacity to hold 480 inmates, as now severely overcrowded.

“It is really hard for the inmates now to sleep, to use toilets and water facilities, and even to get food. It is not good for their health; infectious diseases can spread easily,” he said.

Myint Kyi’s comments prompted a team from the human rights commission to visit Katha Prison and interview 39 inmates and detainees. The commission discovered a total of 1,003 inmates—more than double its official capacity—136 of which were female. The minimum requirement of 18 square feet per inmate far exceeds the reality of just 8.6 square feet per inmate.
In their statement, the commission reiterated their earlier recommendations regarding facilities and staff levels, and the need to take preventive measures against infectious diseases.

“The overcrowding and the inadequate staff, water and medical supplies are the same as in other prisons, as well as in police lock-ups. The relevant ministries should implement the commission’s recommendations as soon as possible, and the government needs to provide the necessary budget,” lawmaker Myint Kyi said during the session on July 28.

This year, the human rights commission issued four other statements related to prison conditions in Pegu Division, Shan State, Kayah State and Khamti of Sagaing Division.