[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index
NEWS- Burma-Human Rights: Thais Tel
- Subject: NEWS- Burma-Human Rights: Thais Tel
- From: BurmaJapan@xxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 20 Nov 1997 08:08:00
Burma-Human Rights: Thais Tell Tales of Torture in Burma Prison
Inter Press Service
BANGKOK, (Nov. 19) IPS - For more than a week
now, Thai fishermen have recounted firsthand the
horrors of Burma's most notorious prison, where
several of the country's opposition political figures
to the junta have perished.
The fishermen were released after the intervention
of Thailand's army commander-in-chief General
Chetta Thanajaro during a Nov. 6 official visit to
Rangoon and an appeal to junta secretary-general,
The Thai pleas resulted in 98 prisoners being
returned to Bangkok on Nov. 11, after being
pardoned by the junta, the State Law and Order
Restoration Council (SLORC).
In graphic detail, the 95 men and three women
spoke of their experiences. Many of them were held
at the infamous Insein Prison in Rangoon, where
conditions are described as "extremely harsh."
Many were held for illegal fishing or logging
activities over the border.
The poor state of their health was a reminder not
just of the grim conditions at Insein, but reports of
human rights abuses there. Flown back to Bangkok
on a Royal Thai Air Force C-130, several needed
wheel chairs because they were too weak to walk.
"I will never return to work as a fisherman again,
never in Burmese waters. That was the worst
experience of my life," said 28-year-old Phem
Phimphu from the northern province of Roi Et.
"Although I have never been imprisoned in Thailand,
I've heard that they at least get proper food, live in
clean rooms and can go to the toilet any time," he
Other prisoners came back with skin diseass,
malnutrition, tuberculosis, and even the HIV virus.
Thai Ministry of Public Health officials said that of
the prisoners freed, only 28 were in good health.
Their plight adds weight to official human rights
reports of prison conditions described by a U.S.
report as "extremely harsh."
Arrests of political prisoners linked to opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for
Democracy (NLD) are often arbitrary, with
sentences of seven years for possession of
"subversive" literature not uncommon.
Several NLD members have perished in custody,
including Leo Nichols, a friend of Suu Kyi who was
arrested in April 1996 for possession of
"unauthorized telephone" and fax machines and
sentenced to three years in jail.
Nichols suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on June 22
last year in custody and died later in Rangoon
General Hospital. Reports said the prison's "harsh
treatment almost certainly hastened his death."
The Thai fishers said that often, up to 100 people
are crammed into poorly-ventilated narrow cells with
"The room was very stuffy and at night we had to
sleep sideways in four rows, head to head and feet
to feet," said Phem, adding dust and dirt was
"Many of us suffered and we couldn't go to the toilet
but had to use tins, even when we were vomiting,"
said Phem, who spent eight months in jail.
For 33-year-old Berm Mana-ngam from Khon Kaen
in northeastern Thailand, the food was the same
every day: soup, soybean curry, and rice. "I only
ate my food when I was really hungry because often
I would find worms and all sorts of things in the
soup," he said.
"The water we got to drink was often green," he
added. He served 20 months in prison for fishing
illegally in Burmese waters.
He said when receiving vaccines, "four to five
people would sit at their desks with injections and
we had to line up in rows. They injected us with the
same needles one after another."
There are still some 100 Thais held in Burmese
prisons and many of the returned prisoners
expressed fears for the fate of their colleagues.
As fishing stocks have been depleted in Thai
waters, Thai vessels have ventured throughout
Southeast Asian and even to Irian Jaya and Papua
New Guinea. But the price the fishermen pay for
their illegal activities is often a visit to what other
prisoners, as well political detainees at Insein, call
"hell on earth."
"Initially, when I was told that I had been sentenced
to five years, I felt like killing myself. The conditions
were really bad...it's like living in another world,"
He said he could not understand why Burma treated
its prisoners so severely for offenses judged as
being less than criminal. He spoke of how he was
overcome by a sense of helplessness, unable to
even write to his wife and two young children.
Critics say there is little sign of a change of heart
from the Burmese government, even with last
week's change in the name of the junta to the
benign-sounding State Peace and Development
Council. Last week, state-run Burmese radio
announced the country had replaced the 21-member
SLORC junta with a new, 19-member group.