Sunday, 2 November 2008

Junta sends prisoners in short-term sentences to Hard Labour camps

Written by KNG
Saturday, 01 November 2008

Burma's ruling military junta has been sending prisoners serving less than a year's prison term in a prison at Myitkyina, the capital of Burma's northern Kachin State to Hard Labour camps in lower Burma, according to local sources.

Prisoners serving prison terms between six months to five years in Zilon Prison have been selected and sent to the Htonbo Hard Labour camp in the south of Mandalay and the Hard Labour camps in the war zone in Karen State, sources close to the prisoners said.

The sources added that the prison authorities mainly selected young male prisoners for Hard Labour and if the prisoners wanted to be excluded from the list of Hard Labour candidates then their families or relatives would have to pay a bribe between 250,000 Kyat (US $105) to 300,000 Kyat (US $246) per prisoner to the prison authorities within a given time.

The main reasons for sending prisoners serving short-term prison sentences are that the prisons are becoming more and more crowded with the death toll of prisoners dying from Tuberculosis (TB) and AIDS increasing day by day, according to the prison.

Currently, both the diseases have not spread among too many prisoners however, policemen guarding the prisons are also falling victim to the diseases, the prison authorities said.

In Zilon Prison, there are prison cells to accommodate about 700 male prisoners and 500 female prisoners. However, there are now about 1,300 male prisoners and about 500 female prisoners in the prison. About twenty prisoners have to stay in a prison cell and most of the prisoners are the cases related to drug addicts and smugglers, according to the prisoners.

Of them, most prisoners are ethnic Kachins because they do not have enough money to bribe the policemen for avoiding imprisonment, the Kachin community sources in Myitkyina said.

Earlier, the junta used to send prisoners with more than five years prison terms in Zilon Prison, to the Hard Labour camps around the country and also as porters in the wars between Burma's army and the Karen National Union (KNU) on the Thailand-Burma border in the Southeast of the country, added local sources.

According to prisoners in Zilon Prison, if the prisoners are sent to the junta's Hard Labour camps, most of them have high chances of dying of torture and malnutrition.

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