Insein hunger strikers return to cells

Political inmates in Rangoon’s Insein prison have been returned to their normal cells after days spent in solitary confinement for staging a hunger strike.

At least seven of the nearly 30 prisoners who went on strike this month were sent to the prison’s isolation wing; now back in their cells, some have been allowed family visits, according to the Network for Political Prisoner Families’ Assistance (NPPFA) who met with a relative of one of the seven.

A spokesperson for the Rangoon-based group said that the strikers had negotiated with Insein’s director and the chief warden who agreed to meet their demands, which included a call for better conditions for prisoners.

“On [Wednesday] afternoon, Insein prison’s chief director Zaw Win and chief warden Thet Shay arrived at the prison and had a talk with about 10 political inmates who staged the hunger strike,” said the spokesperson.

“According to families who visited them [Thursday] morning, all of them were returned to their regular prison ward and all the problems were solved.”

He added however that details of the five female political prisoners who began the hunger strike on 17 May remain unknown.

The strike started the day after President Thein Sein announced a one-year commutation of all prison sentences that saw nearly 17,000 people released early. Among these however were only around 50 political prisoners.

The five were then joined by 22 male political prisoners on 22 May before authorities sought to isolate them.

Despite having been returned to their cells, the NPPFA spokesperson said that there were still concerns for their safety.

“There are examples under previous governments when prison authorities would give in to some small demands and then later, when people forget, give them further punishments such as sending them back to solitary confinement,” he said.

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