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Statement No. (9/2015) Myanmar National Human Rights Commission Statement with respect to the students and supporters detained in Thayarwaddy Prison

By Myanmar National Human Rights Commission  •  July 20, 2015
  1. On 8 July 2015, The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission received complaints regarding the student demonstrators and their supporters who have been detained in Thayarwaddy Prison and undergoing court trials for demonstrations in Letpadan Township.

The complaints contained the following:

  •  the injuries sustained by the students during their arrest were not given proper treatment;
  •  the mobile phones, laptops, jewellery and money confiscated were neither submitted as evidence nor were they returned to the individuals concerned;
  •   the rice was too hard to be consumed, the congee given to the patients was unpalatable;
  •   the prison hospital dispenses only one type of medicine for all types
  • of illness;
  •   some patients were forcibly discharged;
  •  smoking and betel chewing was prohibited;
  • and some detainees were kept in solitary confinement.
  1. To determine the truth about these matters, a team consisting of Commissioners U Zaw Win, Dr. Nyan Zaw, Daw Mya Mya and staff from the commission’s office visited Thayarwaddy Prison from 13 to 14 July 2015 and inspected the sleeping quarters and cells and interviewed individually (25) student detainees and supporters and also (5) prison employees. On 15 July 2015, the team visited Yangon General Hospital to interview the patient who have been hospitalized there and inspected and checked the records.

The situation of detainees in Thayawaddy Prison

  1. There were 110 male student detainees and supporters and (21) female detainees for a total of (131) persons on 10 March 2015. But, as of 13 July 2015 there remained only (59) male and (7) female detainees with (2) detainees hospitalized in Yangon General Hospital for a total of (68) detainees. The (59) male detainees are kept separately in a two-storied sleeping quarter constructed for youth detainees. The quarters have (4) rooms, each measuring 928 sq ft (exclusive of corridor and latrine). Planks have been laid out covered with wax sheeting. At present, room No (1) holds (32) detainees and room No (2) holds (20) male detainees. (7) male detainees are kept in the other (7) cells and provided with plank flooring and mosquito netting. The (7) female detainees are kept in the women’s sleeping quarter No (1) which has an area of 400 sq ft.
  2. Of those detained in the first instance, starting from 12 to 17 March 2015, (20) male students and (8) female students, totaling (28) students who are day scholars have been handed over to their parents. On 23 March 2015, (2) news reporters from Myanmar Post Journal and Reporter Journal were released. On 24 March 2015, (19) male detainees and (1) female detainee were released on grounds of incompetency to stand trial. On 25 March 2015 bail was granted to (6) male and (5) female detainees, totaling (11) detainees in all. On 12 May 2015 and (26) May 2015, cases were filed against (2) male detainees under child act and the court ordered them to face trail free from detention. Therefore, up to 13 July 2015, (49) male and (14) female detainees totaling (63) persons have been released.
  3. Also on 14 July 2015, the court granted bail to (11) male and (1) female detainee for a total of (12) persons.
  4. On 25 April 2015, mosquito netting for both male and female student detainees and supporters were provided for, from their own savings, but (5) student detainees declined the offer.

Injured students and medical treatment

  1. Among the Students who were dispatched to Thayarwaddy Prison on the night of 10 March 2015, those with head wounds and shoulder bruises, together with (10) male supporters, were treated at the Prison Hospital. (34) male detainees with lacerations were treated at the sleeping quarters, by Dr. San Lin Htun, the medical doctor in charge and (4) medical staffs. In March, (4) male detainees underwent x-ray examination at Thayarwaddy Hospital, in April (3) persons, and in May one person. A detainee was sent to Insein Hospital for treatment and two others took treatment at Yangon General Hospital. Medical records were kept for each and every patient.
  2. The prison doctor and medical staff caters to minor illness and separate arrangements are made should there be a need for specialist treatment. The G.P. from Thayarwaddy Hospital and a dentist visit the prison once a month for regular checkups.
  3. From the medical records and medicine balance sheet, it can be surmised that treatment is given with required medication.
  4. The set-up strength of the Prison Hospital is for (5) doctors, (3) nursing staff and (7) orderlies for a total of (15) persons, but at present there are only (2) male doctors and (3) nursing staff. There is no lady doctor and no dentist. Although there is a female nursing staff, she is currently attending a two year nursing course.

The confiscation of mobile phones, lap-tops and jewellery

  1. Of the (110) male detainees who were dispatched to Thayarwaddy Prison, (50) persons came without any possessions. Mobile handsets, SIM cards, jewelleries, local currencies and other items were confiscated from the remaining (60) persons. The items confiscated were put on record and the concerned persons and prison officials attested their signatures on the list. Items belonging to (6) detainees released on 12 March, (8) detainees released on 13 March, one released on 14 March, another released on 17 March, (11) released on 24 March, (2) detainees who got bail on 25 March, one who got bail on 26 March and (9) persons who were handed over to the custody of the families totaling (39) persons in all, have their items returned to them.
  2. Of the (21) females who were detained, (7) persons did not have any belongings on them and only items from the other (14) female detainees were confiscated. Goods belonging to (6) persons who were released, (5) persons who were given bail and (4) who were handed over to the families totaling (15) persons in all have their belongings returned to them.
  3. (15) Lakhs were confiscated at the Prison and of these (6) Lakhs have already been given back to the families. The remainder have been retained at the prison and the detainees use them for buying mosquito netting, foodstuffs and other items as they wish.
  4. (12) rings made of metal presumed to be gold were handed over to the prison authorities and (11) have already been given back to the families. Only one ring is left in the possession of the authorities. (4) necklace handed over to the authorities have also been handed back to the families. Of the (11) earrings handed over, (9) have been handed back to the families and only (2) remained with the prison authorities.
  5. The prison confiscated (26) mobile handsets and (22) SIM cards. The police station also handed over (9) mobile handsets and (19) SIM cards. (5) handsets and (5) SIM cards have been given back to the families. On 19 March 2015, the Letpadan Myoma police station Station commander, came with a search warrant and took away (29) handsets and (36) SIM cards, so there remained only (1) handset at the prison.
  6. It was found out that regarding the items confiscated, the prison authorities kept in proper order, list of items, vouchers, and receipts of all the items handed over to the family and to the police station.

Meals and Drinking water

  1. Drinking water is distributed from the water treatment plant of the prison and there have been no health complaints of any kind with regards to water.
  2. Upon questioning (25) detainees and supporters they informed the team that there are times when the rice is undercooked or overcooked but generally it is palatable.
  3. For the (7) persons who were put in solitary confinement on 30 June 2015, no food or water was given to them that afternoon, but they were provided food and water in the evening. They had to sleep on the concrete floor as no planks were provided but the planks were given to them the next day.

Cigarette and Betel consumption

  1. Section 373 of the 1894 Jail Manual prohibited cigarette among other things. Section 701 of the same Manual allowed prisoners to buy tobacco for consumption but within certain limitations. In addition according to Telegraph No (1) of the Prisons Department dated 13 March 2009 and the directive No. Pahtaya / 1-1 (663) yay 2 dated 18 Jun 2011 of the Ministry of Home Affairs cigarettes, lighters and betel are strictly prohibited. The prohibited items were read out to the detainees and prisoners, from the instance they entered the prison and notices to that effect were also posted at the prison entrance and sleeping quarters.
  2. From the 23 March to 30 June 2015, (36) male detainees brought into the prison, either brazenly (or) discreetly prohibited items such as cigarettes, cheroots, tobacco leafs, lighters and betel. There were (20) first times offenders, (7) two times offenders (5) three times offenders, (3) four times offenders and (1) six times offender. Of them San Myat Thu (a) Pho Thar was released on bond on 26 May 2015. After committing the offence for a seventh time, starting from the 24 June 2015 the remaining (35) persons were penalized. For (20) first time offenders jail visit was denied for (2) weeks for (10) second time offenders jail visit was denied for (4) weeks, for (5) three times and above offenders jail visit was denied for (6) weeks.

The penalty of closure of jail visit and solitary confinement

  1. According to section 784 of 1894 Jail Manual, jail visit is allowed. Section 809 mentions the offences and Section 811, 817 and 818 mention the penalties that prison authorities could impose for the offences committed by the detainee. Although jail visit is not mentioned as a penalty, according to section (784) sub section (4), jail authorities can impose such penalties. Even though jail visit was denied, parcels and other items were allowed to be brought in.
  2. The (7) detainees were put in solitary confinement for (14) days starting from 30 June to 13 July 2015, because on top of bringing in prohibited items, they demonstrated disrespect and defiance to the chief warden and other officials. One detainee took off his longyi and underwear in defiance. As a result, a case was filed against them, at the Thayarwaddy Police Station under section (42) of the Prisons Act. Although they were put in solitary confinement they were allowed to bring in parcels, given the liberty of reading books, partake of their own food, allowed to sleep with mosquito netting, allowed to exercise twice a day and given permission to bathe.
  3. It is learnt that of the seven, two detainees would be allowed jail visit on 15 July 2015, (4) would be allowed jail visit on 22 July and the remaining detainee would be allowed jail visit on 5 August 2015.

Court trial and lawyer representation

  1. The trial of the student demonstrators have being assisted by the Myanmar Lawyer’s Network. Although the lawyers are not given access to the detainees in prison, they can meet them when there is court hearing.
  2. No trial was held, although the Letpadan Township Court was in attendance (4) times from 11 March to 23 April 2015. The first time the court met was at 7 o’clock in the evening. The court was in attendance (9) times from 30 April to 14 July 2015. Up to now, no trail had been held. The first time they were brought to court, the detainees were found to be jam-packed in (3) police detention vans.
  3. On 14 July 2015 the detainees were brought to the township court from Thayawaddy Prison in (3) Police Vans. Two commission members went to the Thayawaddy Township Court to observe and they saw the detainees mingling with their lawyers, witness, parents and relatives and the media.
  4. It was learnt that some lawyers went to the Prison on (11) and (18) March 2015 and again on 7 July 2015 to file applications to represent the detainees. The applications were not accepted as they were not complete and also some lawyer licenses have already expired.
  5. As of 14 July 2015, (20) lawyers were representing the detainees in Thayarwaddy Township Court proceedings. It was also learnt that the trial had been in session for a long time and that there were delays in the proceedings.

Recommendations

  1. The Commission would like to recommend that the Prison Hospital staff should be supplemented to full strength. A lady doctor, a female nurse and a dentist should also be appointed. An x-ray machine and other modern medical appliances should be installed.
  2. It is found that there are some discrepancies in the list of items confiscated and the items handed over. The commission would like the authorities to make a thorough check and also inform the individuals concerned if there are discrepancies.
  3. The Commission would like to recommend that the items confiscated by the Police should be registered in the Police Station records and sealed as exhibits. They should submit them to the court and follow the decision of the court. All items that have no bearing in the trail should be handed over to the persons concerned.
  4. When questioned by the team with regards to food, the student detainees and supporters answered that they found the food to be palatable. Upon inspection, the Commission team also found out that the food was satisfactory. The Commission would therefore like to recommend that the present standard of food should be maintained .
  5. Regarding the (7) male detainees who are undergoing solitary confinement and denied prison visit , the Commission would like to recommend the authorities to leniently consider the charge brought against them under the Prison Act, section 42.
  6. The Commission would like to recommend that when the detainees are brought to court, the number of detainees in each vehicle should not exceed the capacity of that vehicle.
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This post is in: NHRC Monitor

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