Behind Bars, But at the Revolution’s Forefront

April 27th, 2024  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  8 minute read
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“First-hand experience tells me that assistance from the outside world boosts morale among political prisoners and convinces us that we have not been forgotten.”

U Bo Kyi, joint Secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

In recent months in particular, the Myanmar military junta has suffered an ever-increasing series of major defeats. While the junta has become increasingly reliant on airstrikes from 2021 to 2023 in response to losing strategic urban areas, key border trade routes, and most of the ethnic borderland’s territory that the previous military regimes have occupied by force as part of the military’s Burmanization, at its core, the junta’s terrorist-style tactics are focused on arbitrary arrest, interrogation, physical and psychological torture, rape and sexual harassment, denial of health care and extrajudicial killings, among other human right violations, of Myanmar’s courageous political prisoners.

Since its failed coup, the junta has arrested 26,549 people, of which 20,350 remain in detention, and it has sentenced to death behind interrogation centers and prison’s walls at least 166 people. Without legal protection or fair treatment, and completely subjected to corrupt and ruthless prison staff and security forces, the lives of political prisoners are under constant threat. As reported by Political Prisoners Network Myanmar, in addition to the 34 political prisoners murdered last year, at least 13 people were killed in junta-run prisons in the first three months of this year alone. The latest incident took place in Kachin State’s Myitkyina Prison, on 18 April, when security forces opened fire on prisoners, killing four people and injuring 12 others. The prisoners were protesting the junta’s unfair and orchestrated Myanmar New Year’s amnesty.

The day before the protest at Myitkyina Prison, the junta, following an old propaganda technique from the military’s playbook, released more than 3,000 people. The release of prisoners only appears to be a gesture of goodwill, aimed solely at reshaping the junta’s international image. In fact, less than 3% of those released were political prisoners who had been wrongfully and illegally detained by the junta in the first place. For some of the few political prisoners released, their freedom lasted less than a day. For instance, the former president of the Kachin Baptist Convention, Reverend Hkalam Samson, was re-arrested within hours of his release on 17 April. The systematic release and re-arrest of political prisoners constitutes an additional form of psychological torture deployed by the junta to diminish physical and mental capacities of detainees and their families.

Despite the junta’s terror campaign against all forms of dissent and the recent escalation of the junta’s human rights violations committed against political prisoners, no prison bars can contain the unwavering revolutionary and defiance spirit of illegally detained youth activists, politicians, members of the resistance forces and the Civil Disobedience Movement, human rights defenders, and mothers and fathers of anti-junta families. Although underreported, the barbaric, overcrowded, and degrading jails across Myanmar represent one of the most brutal and blood-soaked frontlines of the Revolution, where political prisoners bravely fight every day.

While political prisoners are in an extremely vulnerable situation, with no mean to protect themselves, they continue to battle by staging highly dangerous protests and hunger strikes, while risking their lives to get information about their conditions and the ongoing human rights violations out of prison. One of the most recent acts of courage reported occurred on 6 February in Kyaikmaraw Prison in Mon State, when 47 political prisoners began a hunger strike to protest cruel and degrading treatment of prisoners, particularly during interrogations, and to demand the removal of two political prisoners from solitary confinement.

In solidarity with all political prisoners in Myanmar, on 21 April, the 10th anniversary of the death of U Win Tin, a political prisoner who spent over 19 years in prison, people across the world wore blue shirts, the color of the prison uniform in Myanmar. As described by U Bo Kyi, joint Secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, “First-hand experience tells me that assistance from the outside world boosts morale among political prisoners and convinces us that we have not been forgotten.” In this spirit, the global Blue Shirt Day campaign calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners, while shining a vital spotlight on the dire situation in prisons and detention centers.

The political prisoners, although behind bars, are one of the most heroic faces of the people’s nationwide democratic resistance movement against the junta that the people of Myanmar draw their inspiration from. Myanmar’s ongoing social, political, cultural, institutional and economic revolution will not be complete until there are no more political prisoners locked up in prison cells, interrogation rooms or detention centers.

The junta’s ongoing brutal campaign against the people of Myanmar, both inside and outside its detention facilities, is only possible because there has been no accountability for past crimes, perpetuating total impunity for even the most heinous atrocity crimes, including genocide. The UN Security Council must wait no longer, and implement its resolution 2669 for an end to the military’s violence and mass atrocities against the people of Myanmar, for the immediate release of all political prisoners.[2] Going forward, its actions on Myanmar must focus on bringing justice and accountability to the victims and survivors, either by referring the crisis in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or by creating a criminal prosecutorial mechanism.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

[2] Adopted by the UN Security Council at its 9231st meeting, on 21 December 2022, the Resolution 2669 “Urges the Myanmar military to immediately release all arbitrarily detained prisoners, including President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi”

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Statement on The Escalation of Conflicts in Myanmar

By Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Pazigyi Massacre has been one-year

By Blood Money Campaign

Chevron’s Withdrawal from Yadana Project Fails to Mitigate Human Rights Concerns

By Blood Money Campaign

BHRN Welcomes People’s Assembly’s Decision for the Abolishment of 1982 Citizenship Law

By Burma Human Rights Network

Chevron Withdraws From Myanmar, but Payouts To Junta Will Continue

By EarthRights International

Myanmar: UN Human Rights Council unequivocally condemns the junta, yet much more needed to stop its atrocities, ensure accountability

By FORUM-ASIA, Athan, RW Welfare Society and Progressive Voice

G7 Italy 2024 Foreign Ministers’ Statement on Addressing Global Challenges, Fostering Partnerships

By G7 Foreign Ministers

Thailand: Halt Forced Returns to Myanmar

By Human Rights Watch

Myanmar: Military Forcibly Recruiting Rohingya

By Human Rights Watch

KNU Statement on Stability, Peace and Public Safety around Myawaddy and Thailand-Burma/Myanmar Border

By Karen National Union

Myanmar: MSF office in Rakhine state destroyed

By Médecins Sans Frontières

How a Near-Total Absence of Humanitarian Access is Impacting Iives in Myanmar

By Médecins Sans Frontières

How Thai Government Should Respond to the Situation at the Border

By Milk Tea Alliance Friends of Myanmar

Second People’s Assembly Report to the People

By National Unity Consultative Council

Proposals and Recommendations to be Implemented by the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) and the National Unity Government (NUG) in Accordance With the Federal Democracy Charter (FDC) Put on Record by the Second People’s Assembly Organized by the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC)

By National Unity Consultative Council

Statement on the situation in Buthidaung

By National Unity Government

Appeal to the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand

By National Unity Government

Statement on the Appointment of the Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations on Myanmar

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Adoption of the consensus resolution on the situation of human rights in Myanmar

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)

Myanmar: Türk Sounds Alarm Amid Rising Tensions in Rakhine

By United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner



Burma Coup Watch for the Month of March 2024

By ALTSEAN-Burma, Asia Democracy Network, Asia Forum for Human Rights and Development, Burma Human Rights Network, Initiatives for International Dialogue, International Federation for Human Rights, Progressive Voice, US Campaign for Burma and Women’s Peace Network

From Humanitarian Resistance to Resilience: Nation-Building in Active Conflict

By Humanitarian Practice Network

Permanent Scars : Torture of villagers under arbitrary detention by State Administration Council in Southeast Burma (January – December 2023)

By Karen Human Rights Group

Latest Update from the Karenni Coordination Team for Emergency Relief Since the Coup

By Karenni Human Rights Group

Concentrated SAC attacks along trade highways during Operation 1027 highlight risk of premature CMEC investment

By Shan Human Rights Foundation

Poverty and the Household Economy of Myanmar: a Disappearing Middle Class

By United Nations Development Programme

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”