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May 7, 2008 (DVB)-Four Insein prison inmates reportedly died during questioning as authorities investigated a riot in the prison, while another 98 have been held in punishment cells.
In a statement released yesterday, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners gave further details of the riot in the early hours of Saturday morning in which 36 prisoners were killed.
According to the group, more than 1500 prisoners were locked in a prison hall after Cyclone Nargis destroyed parts of the prison, and a riot broke out after their requests to move to safety were refused by prison guards.
"Some prisoners started shouting demands, and some set fire to the prison hall. The fire burnt down the hall, and a riot situation ensued in the prison," the AAPP statement said.
Soldiers and riot police were called in after prison guards failed to control the situation, and opened fire on the prisoners, killing 36 and injuring around 70.
Smoke from the fire spread throughout the prison, including to blocks where political prisoners such as 88 Generation Student leader Min Ko Naing were being held.
They were eventually allowed out of their cells to escape the smoke, but one political prisoner was admitted to the prison hospital with breathing difficulties and Min Ko Naing’s eye condition has deteriorated due to the smoke.
Prison authorities conducted an investigation into the incident, which resulted in the death of four inmates under interrogation, and 98 prisoners, including four political prisoners from the National League for Democracy, were held in a punishment cell block.
AAPP secretary Ko Tate Naing said these prisoners were now undergoing further questioning.
"We have learnt the 98 prisoners who were previously put in a punishment cell block have been sent to Yay Kyi-I interrogation center for further interrogation on the incident," he said.
"This is a severe and dangerous violation of human rights."
Ko Bo Kyi, joint secretary of AAPP, said the authorities were to blame for the creating the situation.
"As soon as the storm hit, they should have moved the prisoners to safety. Their mismanagement of the situation led to prisoners rioting," Bo Kyi said.
"We condemn their violent response, which led to the needless deaths of 36 prisoners. We call on the regime to allow the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur Sergio Pinheiro to conduct an immediate investigation into the whole incident, including the cases of the four prisoners who were tortured to death."
Security has now been tightened at the prison.
Reporting by Aye Nai