Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Three new prisons to open at end of 2017

Three new prisons, in Mohnyin in Kachin State, Daik-U in Bago Region, and Kyaikmaraw in Mon State, are expected to be opened at the end of the year to help relieve overcrowding at penitentiaries in the country, the Prison Department of Myanmar said.

At present there are about 40 prisons and over 80,000 prisoners throughout the country. All these prisons were built for 500 inmates but most of them are packed with about 1000 prisoners each, the department said.

The new prisons can accommodate up to 1000 convicts, said U Min Tun Soe, the spokesman of the Prison Department.

The first facility that would be opened is Daik-U prison in Bago, which was already built but was never used because it needs rehabilitation. Preparations are underway to transfer inmates there, he added.

“We are starting to transfer about 100 prisoners from Insein prison to Daik-U prison. It will be opened soon and it had been approved to open officially,” U Min Tun Soe said.

Construction of two other prisons in Kachin State’s Mohnyin and Mon State’s Kyaikmaraw are nearly completed, he added.

“The three prisons could help ease the problems of prisoners, we need to solve the problem of space first then we can talks about the services and human rights later,” U Min Tun Soe said.

U Yu Lwin Aung, a Myanmar National Human Right Commission member that visited three prisons in northern Shan State, noted that there is still a lot of room for improvement in the country’s prison system.

“There is still [a] need to respect human rights laws even in prisons of Myanmar; overcrowding is one of the problems,” he said.

U Yu Lwin Aung welcomed the news about the opening of the three new prisons, which he said, could improve the condition of the inmates.

The general services in prison also need to be improved. It should be the next step after solving the overcrowding problem, he added.

The government is also building a new prison in Magwe Region which could be completed in three years.

The International Committee of the Red Cross Country Report on Human Rights highlighted the overcrowding in Myanmar prisons.

It noted that in some prisons, pre-trial detainees are mixed with convicted prisoners and occasionally political prisoners are held together with common criminals.

Medical supplies and bedding were also often inadequate. Bedding sometimes consisted of a single mat, wooden platform, or laminated plastic sheet on a concrete floor. Prisoners did not always have access to potable water, according to the ICRC report.

In many cases, family members supplemented prisoners’ official rations with medicine and basic necessities. Inmates reportedly paid wardens for basic necessities, including clean water, prison uniforms, plates, cups, and utensils. Detainees were also unable to access quality, and timely, medical care, the report added.

The ICRC report said prisoners suffered from health problems, including malaria, heart disease, high blood pressure, tuberculosis, skin diseases, and stomach problems resulting from unhygienic conditions and spoiled food.

There were also occasional reports of custodial deaths due to health problems associated with prison conditions and lack of quality, and timely, medical care.

Between 2011 and 2014, 120 persons reportedly died in 46 of the prisons and labour camps in the country, allegedly due to “weather, diet, lifestyle, and accidents”.