Prison Strikes and Riot Following ‘Unfair’ Presidential Pardon
By Htun Htun 24 April 2019
YANGON—Inmates at Shwebo Prison and Mopalin Labor Camp have staged demonstrations and called for a review after they were excluded from this year’s presidential pardons.
The demonstrations were mainly staged by those serving their time under articles 15 and 16 of the 1993 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law.
The demonstration at Shwebo Prison in Sagaing Region on Monday morning, which called for equality in the presidential pardon, led to a prison-wide riot. The region’s chief minister and lawmakers met the inmates at their request, according to U Moe Kyaw Thu, a lawmaker in Shwebo Township, Sagaing Region.
“They complained that they missed out while others who were given the same punishment under same charge, articles 15 and 16 of the drug law, were granted presidential pardons. Therefore, they feel it is unfair, and called for a review. The chief minister will report it to the President’s Office,” said the lawmaker who negotiated with inmates following the prison riot.
Last Wednesday, President U Win Myint pardoned 9,551 prisoners, including two political prisoners and 16 foreigners, under the New Year amnesty granted every April.
Most of the prisoners released were serving long sentences on convictions related to illicit drugs, according to U Min Tun Soe, deputy director and spokesperson of the Myanmar Prisons Department under the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“They staged a demonstration because they were not released while others were. Their demands have been presented to the President’s Office,” U Yu Lwin Aung, a member of Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC), told The Irrawaddy.
The riot that broke out at the Ward 1 of Shwebo Prison at around 8:30 a.m. on Monday quickly spread to other wards.
Around 720 inmates from Shwebo Prison were released under the presidential pardon on April 17, and there are around 1,000 inmates in the prison at present, said U Moe Kyaw Thu.
Around 400 inmates in Mon State’s Mopalin Labor Camp also held a strike due to what they are calling inequality in the presidential pardon. The MNHRC met them on Friday.
“I’m concerned that such riots will spread to other prisons and motivate hardened criminals,” said U Moe Kyaw Thu.
Inmates in Mopalin demonstrated for the same reason as fellow inmates who were serving the same term for same offences were released.