Insein Prison (Burmese: အင်းစိန်ထောင်) is located in Yangon Division, near Yangon (Rangoon), the old capital of Myanmar. It is run by the military junta of Myanmar, the State Peace and Development Council, and used largely to repress political dissidents.
One of its most famous prisoners is the Nobel Peace prize winning human rights activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been confined to Insein on three separate occasions in 2003, 2007 and 2009. Other known prisoners include a 21 year-old Burmese video-journalist named Sithu Zeya who after being arrested in April 2010, is currently serving an 8-year sentence for photographing the aftermath of an attack on civilians by the military junta. Another imprisoned video-journalist is 29 year-old Ngwe Soe Lin who was arrested in an internet cafe in Rangoon on April 14, 2010 for his video coverage of Burmese children orphaned by Cyclone Nargis in 2008. Democracy activist Aye Yung was held for trial at Insein Prison for distribution of leaflets at Dagon University.
Sanitation and Healthcare
At Insein, diseases and injuries usually go untreated. A former prisoner at Insein recalls that "When we had fever they never gave us any medicine. If it gets very bad then they send you to the prison hospital, where many people die. The sick prisoners want to go to the hospital, but the guards never send them there until it's already too late, so many die once they get to the hospital. I got fever but I didn't want to go to their hospital, because I was afraid of their dirty needles and contagious diseases. At the hospital they have doctors, but not enough medicines." Also, the same prisoner says that "They allowed us to have a bath once a day. We had to line up in rows of 5 men at a time, and we were allowed 5 bowls of water, then soap, then 7 more bowls of water. But there were many problems - sometimes there was no water supply, so they wouldn't let us take a bath and we could hardly even get water to drink. There were latrines in 2 places - outside of the room for the daytime, and in the room at night. The latrines always had guards, and to use them you had to bribe the guard with 2 cheroots. The latrine was just a bucket, with no water. You could use paper if you could get some, but we used to beg scraps of cloth from the men who worked in the sewing workshop out in the compound."
Tortures employed at Insein prison include:
- Beatings with a rubber pipe filled with sand
- Chasing prisoners with dogs, forcing them to crawl on their hands and knees across a gravel path
Protests within the prison
1991 prisoner hunger strike
According to a former prisoner's account, in 1991 several prisoners held a hunger strike, demanding proper healthcare and the right to read newspapers. However, their demands were not met, and the prisoners were tortured by being chased across the gravel path.
2008 mass shooting of inmates
On May 3, 2008, over 100 prisoners were shot by guards at the prison resulting in the deaths of 36 inmates. A further four inmates were later tortured and killed by the prison guards who believed they had been the ringleaders of the initial protest that culminated in the mass shooting.
2011 prisoner hunger strike
On May 24, 2011, the Myanmar government retaliated against a hunger strike by about 30 political prisoners in the prison by forcing the ringleaders into solitary confinement. The hunger strike began when seven female prisoners protested against a government prisoner amnesty program that failed to include most political detainees. On May 23, 22 male prisoners, including three Buddhist monks, joined the protest, demanding better prison living conditions and improved family visiting rights. According to Aung Din, the executive director of the Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma, “The latest information we have received is that six of the ‘leaders’ of the strike from the male group have been moved to what is known as the ‘dog cell’—a small cell block where they could be tortured and family visits are not allowed.” One of the prisoners moved was an editor of The Kantaryawaddy Times, Nyi Nyi Htun.
- Winston Htoo, Saw. "Current Conditions in Insein Prison". Karen Human Rights Group. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
- Burma Human Rights Yearbook, 2008, Extra-Judicial Killings in Rangoon Division, http://www.burmalibrary.org/show.php?cat=1315
- Ponnudurai, Parameswaran (24 May 2011). ""Dog Cell" for Striking Prisoners". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 1 February 2013.
- HIV Spreads in Insein Prison
- PDF "Burma's Insein Prison: punishment and oppression"
- Burma Campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi in Insein Prison
- Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Myanmar)
- Burmese AAPPB Joint Report on Insein Prison
- Myanmar Government Prisons