Statement by the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission with regards to the visit to Maing-Sat prison in Shan State (Statement No. 7/2015)

A team from the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission comprising of members U Zaw Win, Dr.Daw Than Nwe and Assistant Director Dr. Zay Yar Soe from the Commission’s Office visited the Maing-Sat prison in Shan State on the 7 of May 2015. During the visit, the team inspected the sleeping quarters and the records of the prison. Interviews were also conducted with prisoners and detainees on an individual basis. The team found out that the prison is holding detainees and prisoners in excess of the capacity of the prison. They also observed that the prison’s dispensary has no bed for the inpatients and vacancies for the post of Assistant Doctor and medical personnel vacancies have yet to be filled in accordance with the organizational set up. Although the prison is a “C” category type prison, prisoners who have been sentenced to prison terms for more than 10 years are detained in this prison. The cells designated for long-term prisoners have no covers on the latrines. Two prisoners have been found to be from a very distant place. It was also observed by the team that the sleeping quarters of the detainees are prone to lashings from the rain during the rainy season. For long-term female prisoners, there are 2 cells reserved for them but both cells have no latrines, washing facilities and corridors. It was noticed that there are two under trial detainees who have been under detention for more than 6 months. Five prisoners/detainees have also been found to be above the age of seventy years. There are no facilities for meditation and no vocational trainings have been given. Turning their attention to the kitchen, the team noticed that rice has been cooked with tin drums which are not very hygienic.

            On the positive side, the team noted that the prisoners’ sleeping quarters, the environs and the latrines are very clean. Wax sheetings are also provided in the sleeping quarters. The water for drinking and water for other purposes are also found to be very clean. Another positive factor is the fact that all the prisoners are quite disciplined and there is no infringement of any kind. The biodata of the prisoners are filed under a computer system and any data or information can be easily accessed. Washing soap has been provided in accordance with the scale standards. Sport activities and entertainments are also provided on Independent Day and the annual day celebration of the prison. Television sets are provided in the sleeping quarters of both male and female prisoners and the prisoners have the opportunity to watch TV up to 9 o’clock every night. Although a library is provided, there are very few books in the library. Educational talks on matters relating to the crimes committed by the prisoners are conducted as and when appropriate. For jail visits of families coming from a very distant place, the authorities have allowed the visiting hours to be extended as a gesture of empathy. Full moon day of Tapodwe and Thingyan festival are celebrated according to the customs and on the Burmese New Year Day, prayers for peace are said. Peace and tranquility reign in both the female and male prisoner cells. Uniforms, blankets and slippers are adequately provided. It was also found out that the doctors from the district hospital come often to look into the health of the prisoners.

The recommendations of Myanmar National Human Rights Commission

            MNHRC would like to make the following recommendations:-

(a)       to extend the sleeping quarters to accommodate the excess of prisoners/ detainees.

            (b)       beds should be provided in the dispensary.

(c)       the latrines in the cells meant for long-term prisoners should be provided with coverings of knee-length height.

(d)       the capacity of the prisoners and the prison terms should be in accordance with the category of the prison.

(e)       transfer of prisoners to suitable location should be considered for prisoners whose homes are from faraway places.

(f)        to prevent rain water lashing, louver partitions should be provided.

(g)       in the two cells designed for long-term female prisoners, latrines, washing facilities and corridors should be provided.

(h)       to fill up the vacancies for Assistant Doctor and health personnel.

(i)        for detainees who have been imprisoned for more than 6 months, arrangements should be made with the judiciary and the office of the District Police for speedy trial.

(j)        arrangements for steel containers to be used in cooking should be carried out.

(k)       meditation centres and vocational trainings should be provided.

(l)        for aged prisoners and for detainees who cannot afford a lawyer, arrangements should be provided for in-house appeal process and other appeal processes at the earliest possible time.

Myanmar National Human Rights Commission

Date:  20 May 2015