Number of political prisoners increases in 2007
Number of political prisoners increases in 2007; Crackdown in Burma continues
Assistance Association for Political Prisioners
With the crackdown on nationwide demonstrations in September, the number of political prisoners in Burma increased in the year 2007. There are currently at least 1864 political prisoners in Burma, not including all cases of detention since the crackdown. This is 706 more political prisoners than there were in 2006. See www.aappb.org for full detail.
Those detained after the September 2007 demonstrations in Burma faced torture and ill-treatment while held in detention centers. Some of the detention centers used after the demonstrations were not actually detention centers, but rather educational facilities and stadiums. The AAPP has identified the following locations as detention centers holding a large number of detainees:
Technology College (GTC) in Insein Township,
- Police Centre No. 7 in Thanyin Township,
- Aung Tha Paye in Mayangone Township,
- Riot Police No. 5 in Hmawbe Township,
- Plate Myot Police Centre in Mandalay,
- Kyaik Ka San Interrogation Centre, Tamwe Township,
- Kabaraye Tharthana Yeiktha –Religious site in Bahan Township
- Yakyi Ai in Mingaladone
According to activists interviewed by the media after their release from detention, detainees were not allowed enough drinking water or food while in detention. Proper bedding and blankets were not provided and detainees were kept in overcrowded and poorly ventilated facilities. During this time, detainees were tortured by being forced to lie face down on the ground while answering questions. In one case, two detainees were made to slap each other’s face repeatedly both as a means of humiliation and torture.
Those monks arrested after the September 2007 demonstrations were forcibly disrobed and made to wear soiled civilian clothes. Several monks were severely beaten, kicked and hit. No exception was made for the monks in regards to the amount or severity of torture they endured in detention.
While in detention, many detainees were denied access to proper medical care. As in the prisons, guards often accepted bribes in exchange for permission to see a doctor. The lack of medical treatment is cause for concern. In 2007, the AAPP documented the deaths of at least 30 prisoners (non-political) in Taungoo prison alone. Many died as a result of tuberculosis or HIV/AIDS acquired in the prison.
HIV/AIDS patients in prison are not provided with the proper medications, nor are those who fall ill due to TB or malaria. All political detainees and prisoners in Burma face health problems which arise directly as a result of their detention. Many of the detainees and prisoners have skin diseases and suffer malnutrition. The health condition of political prisoners and detainees seriously deteriorated in 2007
In Burma, nearly all activists are arrested without warrant and held for varying lengths of time in incommunicado detention. They are denied access to legal counsel and in most cases are unfairly tried and sentenced. Many activists have been charged with criminal acts and sent to labor camps. Those detained in the September 2007 protests still await their sentences from a corrupt and unjust legal system.
All activists arrested undergo brutal interrogation before being detained. Interrogations are conducted by the SB (Police Special Branch), CID (Police Criminal Investigation Department) and divisional police. Many activists have been interrogated by the Military Security Affairs Department (MSAD) which has replaced the defunct Military Intelligence (MI). The torture methods used during interrogation are more severe than during detention.
A disturbing trend emerged in 2007 in the regime’s efforts to halt all political opposition. In several cases, relatives of political activists in hiding were arrested in order to force those activists to turn themselves in to the authorities. The AAPP has documented five separate cases:
- Thet Thet Aung was detained on October 19, 2007. Prior to her arrest, her mother and mother-in-law were detained to force her to come out of hiding.
- Ko Nyein Thit, a poet and former political prisoner, is still in hiding. His wife, Khin Mar Lar, has been arrested.
- Thein Aye was arrested when Di Nyein Lin, a leader of All Burma Federation of Students’ Union (ABFSU), evaded arrest. He had been staying in Thein Aye’s house.
- U Pita and Daw Nu Nu Swe are the parents of Si Thu Maung, a leader of the ABFSU. They have been arrested and detained in Insein prison.
- U Gambira, the head of the All Burma Monks Alliance (ABMA) and a leader of the September protests, was arrested in November. Before he was arrested, the authorities arrested his father, U Min Lwin, and his brother, Aung Kyaw Kyaw. His father has since been released, but his brother remains in detention at Insein prison.
Despite the continuing arrests and inhuman detention conditions in which political prisoners are held, the international community has made little progress in addressing the oppression and suffering of the Burmese people. The visits of both the UN special envoy to Burma, Mr. Gambari, and the UN Special Rapportuer on Human Rights in Burma, Mr. Pinheiro, failed to yield any real results. Despite promises made by the regime to Mr. Gambari to cease arrests, political activists continue to be hunted down, arrested, detained and tortured. While the international community has turned its attention to other matters, the crackdown in Burma continues.
The AAPP reiterates its call to release all political prisoners and to end the torture and ill-treatment of those in detention.