MANDALAY — A committee has been formed to investigate the warden of Myingyan prison in Mandalay Division after inmates caused a disturbance and called for his removal Tuesday morning, according to spokesperson of the corrections department U Min Tun Soe.
The protest, which began at 7am and lasted three hours, also demanded that prisoners be allowed to move freely between prison buildings, that they not be made to work on plantations, and that they be provided with more than three blankets.
The demonstration subsided after the authorities promised to take the inmates’ demands into consideration. A meeting took place 15 minutes later between seven inmates leading the protest, the police, township administrators, and local lawmakers.
U Min Tun Soe told The Irrawaddy that a decision on replacing the warden will be made after an investigation by a committee that includes the director of Mandalay Division corrections department U Moe Zaw, deputy director of Naypyidaw corrections department U Aung Myint Kyaw, and Nyaung U Township prison official U Win Min Latt.
“If [the warden] was not doing his job, he will be removed. But we will only know after the investigation committee has reported their findings” U Min Tun Soe said.
U Min Tun Soe said the other three demands of the inmates were not in accordance with prison law and would not be considered.
“We cannot agree on free movement through buildings or between buildings in order to prevent clashes between inmates,” said U Min Tun Soe. “We have already distributed three blankets to each inmate and we cannot give more.”
“We have no words to say to those who have been sentenced to hard labor and demand not to work in the fields,” he added, noting that producing food for the prison was part of their sentence.
U Min Tun Soe also reported that the disturbance was started by an inmate named Ko Kyaw Ko Ko, who was recently transferred from Thayawady prison. The inmate complained about the crowded living conditions and said that he should be excused from labor in the field because he was denied a blanket.
U Aung Myo Latt, a National League for Democracy (NLD) Upper House lawmaker representing Myingyan Township, told The Irrawaddy it seems that there has been a “temporary” resolution to the situation, reducing tension. When he arrived at the prison, officials told him that the dispute had been settled.
There were reports that healthcare standards inside Myingyan prison are substandard due to overcrowding, said U Aung Myo Kyaw of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) in Rangoon.
According to the AAPP, nine inmates of Myingyan prison have died so far this year, eight of them during the first 100 days of the new NLD-led government, which began its tenure in April.
U Min Tun Soe admitted that prisons across the country are overcrowded. He said that Myingyan prison holds over two thousand inmates in buildings designed for about one thousand.