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Political prisoners at Myanmar junta-run prison go on hunger strike

Some 47 political prisoners at a Mon state prison went on a hunger strike to protest recent harsh treatment of inmates and a decision to keep two inmates in solitary confinement, the Political Prisoners Network-Myanmar told Radio Free Asia.

The hunger strike at the military junta-operated Kyaikmaraw prison in Mawlamyine city began at around 11 a.m. on Feb. 6, according to the network.

“None of the 47 prisoners have been taken to the hospital yet, but it is known that they have become so weak that there are worries about their health,” network official Thike Tun Oo told RFA on Friday.

Prison authorities, police and soldiers found two mobile phones during an exhaustive search at the prison on Jan. 28.

Guards then began taking the prison’s political prisoners for severe interrogations almost every day, Thike Tun Oo said. Two political prisoners were sent to solitary confinement on Feb. 5.

Inmates responded by launching a hunger strike with several demands, including that the two prisoners be removed from solitary confinement and given a medical exam. 

They also asked that interrogations of all prisoners be conducted legally and in accordance with basic human rights, that prisoners be brought back to their cells after an interrogation and that interrogations only take place during official hours, according to Thike Tun Oo.

The Political Prisoners Network-Myanmar, or PPNM, publicized the hunger strike on Friday, saying it would continue until prison authorities agreed to the demands.

It was unclear why the two political prisoners were being kept in solitary confinement.

One of the inmates is serving a five-year sentence while the other was sentenced to 20 years. Both were convicted of violating the country’s counter-terrorism laws, which are often used to target pro-democracy activists, the PPNM said.

The junta has arrested and jailed thousands of pro-democracy activists since taking power in a coup d’etat on Feb. 1, 2021.

RFA attempted to contact the office of the deputy director general of the junta’s Prison Department to askabout the hunger strike, but there was no response.

Several junta-affiliated media outlets on Friday denied any report of a hunger strike at Kyaikmaraw prison. 

Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Matt Reed.