Myanmar Spring Chronicle – January 07 Scenes
MoeMaKa, January 08, 2023
Fight in prison and casualties
A riot broke out at Pathein Prison on January 6, killing one inmate and injuring more than 60 others. According to news reports, after the prison staff seized a mobile phone from Ko Waiyan Phyo, who lost his life afterward, they took him and another person out and beat them for questioning.
Because mobile phones are not permitted in prisons, the phone found in his possession was most likely obtained by bribing prison staff. When the prison staff discovered the phone, it is assumed that they attempted interrogation to identify the person who brought the phone into the prison or the person who bought and delivered the phone from outside. It is believed that the following morning, when other political prisoners demanded the release of Ko Waiyan Phyo, who was being held in isolation, it sparked a prison riot.
Demands and challenges to obtain prison rights, also known as the wars in the prison, are typically carried out by prisoners charged with the political section. Those arrested and convicted of crimes rarely make such requests.
On the other hand, it is also necessary for prisoners to obtain the rights they deserve in prison when they are confined for months or years. It is necessary to deliberate and adopt a battle strategy based on factors such as the external political situation and the internal unity of the prison in order to shape a battle.
Hunger strikes at Coco Island Prison, which occurred more than 60 years ago, are well-known in the history of political prisoners in prison. At that time, the fights were more like hunger strikes and disobedience fights that did not follow the unreasonable rules set by the prison than prison riots. Again, in 1976-1978, there were hunger strikes in Yangon’s Insein Prison. However, it is also understood from experience that hunger strikes in times of extreme repression may not yield significant results.
The recent incident was not a hunger strike, but rather a response to a co-prisoner who had been beaten up for interrogation. Or, depending on the situation, prisoners were probably trying to break free. Although it is not yet known how serious the injuries of the other 60 prisoners were, in addition to the one who died, it must be said that there were many injuries even in terms of numbers.
The fights in prisons are not decisive or strategic battles against the military dictatorship to achieve democracy, but only one part of the battle to overthrow the military dictatorship and achieve democracy. So, it will be necessary to review whether or not they should lose a lot of strength in these battles.