More and more attempts at escaping from prisons

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – May 28 Scenes

MoeMaKa, May 29 2023

More and more attempts at escaping from prisons

This week, news arose that a few dozen political prisoners detained at Myingyan Prison were taken out for interrogation by the military council. Before this incident, there was also the news of the escape of some political prisoners relating to PDF forces from Taungoo Prison after looting weapons when they were being taken out for trial. The day before yesterday, some inmates related to the PDF from Kyaik Sa Kaw Prison in Daik-U Township were taken out for interrogation, and there are reports that one of them died. These days, such news emerges continuously.

These incidents happened in this month and in the early part of March, when some of the inmates looted the guns from the security police and escaped when they were returning from the court in Pyinmana to Yamethin Prison. In that incident, it was reported that 9 people escaped and 3 people were recaptured later. The escaped prisoners were not political prisoners, but those charged with criminal offenses who have been convicted and are facing further charges.

After that, in mid-May, an incident occurred at Taungoo Prison, where 10 inmates who were arrested and charged with the accusation of being PDF snatched weapons from the security police and soldiers and escaped when they were taken out for trial. In that incident, a military council sergeant was killed, and PDF inmates escaped. Within the same month after that incident in Taungoo Prison, there were initial reports that one of the inmates convicted of political crimes who were being taken out for interrogation from Myingyan Prison was killed. But later, it was said that the deceased died of his own illness, and he was not arrested on political charges. According to the initial reports, the current interrogation of the inmates was related to the possession of a mobile phone in the prison and the suspicion of contacting individuals from outside political organizations. In this case, it is not known exactly whether it was a case of planning to escape.

Myingyan Prison is the usual one where inmates who have been convicted of political crimes are transferred from Yangon and Mandalay prisons.

The latest incident, the case of the Kyaik Sa Kaw Prison in Bago Division, is a case where inmates who were convicted of being PDF and are still facing trial were taken out for interrogation on the suspicion of communicating with PDF groups from outside. In that incident of interrogating about 20 inmates arrested for political crimes, news arose that Ko Thant Sin Win, who had been sentenced to 80 years in prison for the PDF case in Bago City, had died during the interrogation. Kyaik Sa Kaw Prison is also a place where prisoners from other townships of Bago Division and Karen State are transferred, rather than those who have been convicted in Daik-U Township.

During the previous military regime and the early period after the military coup, there was little chance of escaping from prison. But, several months after the military coup, many factors, such as most parts of Myanmar being transformed into areas of armed conflict, many of those arrested being familiar with weapons of attack, and the presence of PDF or ethnic armed organizations nearby that will accept them if they are able to escape from prisons, are encouraging them to flee. Another factor is that the Counter-Terrorism Law is often used in PDF-related cases, and those who have been sentenced to tens of years in prison under that section will also have an incentive to flee.

The military council has been using the Counter-Terrorism Law like wildfire, handing out hundreds of death sentences and dozens of people sentenced to prison terms of hundreds of years. Using such a legal system as a crutch and imposing excessive prison terms as punishments has led to the choice of those who have been sentenced to escape from this punishment, whether they have to die or will be freed.

Another condition that encourages escape attempts is the developing technology of communication. The mobile phone internet gives them the opportunity to constantly learn about the situation happening outside. They organize the prison staff, who will do anything if they are paid to communicate with outside contacts, and work to get communication equipment such as mobile phones. In this way, they connect with the outside and try to escape. In the past, most of the incidents of people trying to escape from prison have involved breaking out of cells at police stations and escaping from outside work or a police detention center. Nowadays, there have been more cases of people taking weapons and trying to run away when being taken out for trial, connecting with their external contacts to come pick them up at an appointed place.