Progressive Voice: Persecution of political prisoners must stop

April 30th, 2024  •  Author:   Mizzima  •  5 minute read
Featured image

The Myanmar junta has arrested 26,549 people, of which 20,350 remain in detention, and it has sentenced at least 166 people to death, since the February 2021 coup, according to campaign group Fortify Rights.

It says that the junta’s terrorist-style tactics are focused on arbitrary arrest of political prisoners who then face interrogation, physical and psychological torture, rape and sexual harassment, denial of health care and extrajudicial killings, among other human right violations.

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 killed four prisoners and injured 12 others when they opened fire on prisoners who 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. Progressive Voice says that 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 the 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, Progressive Voice says that 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, according to Progressive Voice.

It said that whilst 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 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 colour 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.

Progressive Voice believes that 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.

Progressive Voice says that the UN Security Council must stop waiting and implement its resolution 2669 to end to the military’s violence and mass atrocities against the people of Myanmar and obtain the immediate release of all political prisoners.

Going forward, the UN Security Council’s 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, says Progressive Voice

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, according to Progressive Voice.

It believes that 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.

See the original post.