Smuggled sketches offer insight into Myanmar’s most notorious jail: ‘We’re no longer humans behind bars’

As Myanmar’s largest prison, Insein houses many people arrested for opposing junta

Sravasti Dasgupta
Thursday 07 April 2022 12:08
Comments

(Related) Myanmar Armed Forces Day: A public holiday that many do not celebrate

A year after Myanmar’s military junta staged a coup to oust the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, sketches from inside the country’s most notorious jail used to house dissenters, have emerged to show the stark living conditions.

The Insein Prison in Yangon is Myanmar’s largest jail. Though it was built to house 5,000 prisoners, there are more than 10,000 people jailed there.

A total of 10,072 people have been detained, including Ms Suu Kyi and most of her cabinet, since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Many of the detainees are housed in Insein prison.

Fourteen sketches smuggled out of Insein by former prisoner Nyi Nyi Htwe, 24, have revealed the conditions that inmates live in, reported Reuters.

Mr Nyi Htwe spent several months in jail in relation to a defamation conviction for joining protests against the coup. He was released in October.

The sketches in blue-ink show male prisoners in their dormitories, queuing up for water from a trough to wash, talking or lying on the floor.

The sketches were drawn between April and July last year.

Smuggled sketches show inside of Myanmar's Insein prison

Mr Nyi Htwe said that the artist had given them to him as a birthday present and did not want to be identified.

Eight recently released inmates told Reuters that the jail is infested with rats, bribes are used commonly and prisoners have to pay for sleeping space on the floor, and complained of lack of medical attention for those who are ill.

Mr Nyi Htwe said he and 100 others were in a room where they “slept a finger-width apart”. He added that he watched prison officers beat inmates with batons.

“We’re no longer humans behind bars,” he said.

Another former inmate, Sandar Win, 42, said: “Rats ran around in the room. The toilets were filthy. The food was mixed with flies. Those who couldn’t pay a bribe had to sleep next to the toilet bucket.”

Ms Win is a social worker who was jailed at Insein for several months for defamation after protesting against the junta.

Former female inmates also said that access to outdoor latrines was limited, forcing prisoners to defecate in buckets in their rooms.

They added that there was little medical attention, and skin and bowel diseases spread easily under these conditions.

The prison administration has not yet issued a response to these accounts.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in