WRITTEN BY: Ashly Bloxon
MYANMAR.– On 24 May, seven hunger strikers including two Buddist monks were placed in solitary confinement in small cells designed for military dogs.
The hunger strikes were started by three female political prisoners on 17 May at Insein prison in Yangon, in protest against the government’s prisoner amnesty program that failed to include most political detainees. Other hunger strikers joined who had been protesting inhuman prison conditions.
On 26 May, the prisoners were returned to their usual cells. Officials started talks with the protesters around 27 May but when the talks broke down, the political prisoners who decided to continue the hunger strike were again placed in the dog cells.
The dog cells are about 10 feet in length and seven feet wide. The cells are windowless and sound proof and there is no proper sanitation, no bed and no mats on the floor.
Prisoners who are held in the cells are typically beaten and forced to crawl like dogs, and are often denied food or medical attention, even if severely injured.
One political prisoner who had been held in a dog cell reported that the space was covered in white lice and smelt like a sewer. Other prisoners have reported that they were regularly denied food and water while in the cell.
Tate Naing, secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) stated, “Military dog cells are places of extreme punishment. The lives of these political prisoners are in great jeopardy. This is a very serious human rights violation.”
This practice of solitary confinement is reportedly often being used by authorities as a form of punishment against hunger striking activists and political prisoners.