Hunger strike underway in Insein prison

Fifteen political prisoners in Rangoon’s Insein jail have gone on hunger strike to protest a decision not to overturn a ruling that bars the majority of prisoners from the right to have their sentences reduced.

The 15 are complaining that the revocation, which has been in place for 14 years, was unfair. Until 1997, Burmese penal law entitled all prisoners, except for those on death row or serving life sentences, to small remissions, often only a few days per year.

Aung Zaw Htun, spokesperson for the Assistance Network for Families of Political Prisoners, which has released a statement on the issue, said the hunger strike commenced yesterday with the prisoners refusing breakfast.

Among the strikers are Nyi Nyi Htun, who is serving an 18-year sentence, Kaung Myat Hlaing, 12 years, Nyan Lin Htun, 22 years, and Zin Min Shein, who was handed a 23-year sentence.

The statement also urged the UN, international community and human rights groups to pressure the government to reintroduce the regulation.

The last hunger strike in Insein prison, in May this year, was dealt with harshly by prison officials. Nearly 30 inmates began refusing food a day after Burmese authorities announced a highly criticised amnesty that saw nearly 15,000 people released from jail early, but only 55 of whom were political prisoners.

Ten days into the strike, at least seven inmates were placed in solitary confinement and kept there for several days until authorities acceded to a number demands focused broadly on prisoners’ rights.

Insein prison, which houses more of the country’s 1,700 political prisoners than any other jail, was built by the British in 1871 to house around 5,000 inmates, but the current capacity is thought to be almost double that.

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