Three suspects were shot dead and three policemen seriously injured on Saturday, when several detainees attempted to break out of a police station’s detention cell in eastern Burma.
Seven people detained for drug-related offenses in Kyaukme, Shan State, confronted police guards at around 7pm, according to state media.
The original report, published in Burmese-language Myanmar Alinn, said that the suspects barrelled out of the holding cell when an officer unlocked the door to deliver blankets. The group then began to beat the officers as they charged toward the exit, having armed themselves with wooden bars ripped from cell doors.
Police opened fire as the group tried to fight their way to the exit, the report said.
Three of the suspects — Lao Lu, Zaw Min Win and Kyaw Hlaing — were fatally shot, while four others – Aung Pye Phyo, Win Naing Oo, Aik Mong and Chan Tun — were captured alive with injuries.
Five policemen were also injured in the incident. Three of them – the station’s superintendent, Capt Kyaw Oo, Corp Naung Naung and Han Myo Oo – were hospitalised at Kyaukme Hospital with serious injuries. Police captain Kyaw Oo was transferred to Mandalay General Hospital on Sunday morning because his condition had not improved overnight.
Kyaukme police held a public information session at the station on 27 July, inviting community members to inquire about the incident. Sai Myint Oo, a community leader present at the session, said the holding cells were overcrowded.
“The cells are crammed with people. There are up to 40 detainees in each of the four cells, and there’s no space for them to even stretch their legs out,” he said, adding that the cells were originally built to accommodate about 20 people.
“Most of the detainees were in there for drug-related offences,” he said.
Sai Kham Kyaw, a lower house parliamentarian representing the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, said that despite the increased efforts by the government and agencies such as the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), drug problems in eastern Burma are alarmingly high and seem to be on the rise.
“Villagers in every single meeting with us stress the urgency of addressing drug problems at the local level,” he said. “There’s a lot of buying and selling taking place, with teenagers as young as 14-15 years old among the users.”
The UNODC reported in late June that Burma currently produces about 18 percent of the word’s opiates, and that the past decade has seen a dramatic rise in demand for synthetic drugs, like yaba – a pill-form methamphetamine. A representative of UNODC said that while production and use of drugs in Burma remain high, enforcement was weak and should be geared more toward “precursor controls” that would target drug production.
Kyaukme police and local hospital staff were unavailable for comment.