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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Radio Free Asia

Unrest in Myanmar prisons amid protests of activist executions

Protests at three prisons turned violent when guards tried to shut them down.

By RFA Burmese 2022.07.26 -- Inmate protests of the junta's decision to execute four democracy activists turned violent in three of Myanmar's prisons on Monday, disrupting a trial in one facility and prompting guards to discharge their weapons in another, according to sources with knowledge of the country's penitentiary system.

Tun Kyi, a spokesman for Myanmar's Former Political Prisoners Association, told RFA Burmese that the unrest occurred in Yangon's Insein Prison, Mandalay's Oboh Prison, and Bago region's Pyay Prison following an official announcement of the executions of veteran democracy leader Ko Jimmy, former National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw and activists Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw. While no information was provided about the date and method of the killings, it is believed the men were all hanged on Saturday in Insein Prison.

"The riot in Insein Prison was the most violent," he said, adding that the incident had involved "a problem among the prison staff."

"There was also a protest in Mandalay's Oboh that resulted in some shootings. It also happened in Pyay."

Tun Kyi said a political prisoner from Insein Prison had "escaped" while being brought to court on July 18, leading to "action taken against the guards," adding that reports suggested "officials have been ordered not to leave the prison compound."

He was unable to provide further details about the incidents of unrest at the three prisons on Monday.

Tun Kyi said he expects similar unrest to occur throughout the country in response to the executions, the announcement of which prompted widespread condemnation.

"These incidents will happen. In prisons as well as outside. They will also be more intense," he predicted. "The junta has declared war on the people."

A source in Pyay township with knowledge of the situation at the prison told RFA on condition of anonymity that inmates rioted when guards attempted to shut down their protest of the executions, causing authorities to suspend the proceedings of a trial being held in the compound.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the shootings or whether anyone was injured in the incident or the unrest at the other two prisons.

RFA was not able to independently verify the reports of the prison unrest and calls to the Yangon Prison Department went unanswered on Tuesday.

Mandalay arrests

The incidents of prison unrest came amid reports that junta forces conducted stop-and-search operations in Mandalay on Monday, carrying out house-to-house checks and arresting around 20 young people following the announcement of the weekend's executions.

The searches were carried out by fully-armed members of the military, checking identity cards, an official of the Urban Strike Movement Group told RFA on condition of anonymity.

Another Mandalay resident told RFA the soldiers were mainly targeting young people, checking their mobile phones for social media posts of a black logo mourning the four executed activists and a red logo supporting revolution against the military's Feb. 1, 2021 coup.

"The entire city was searched day in and out," a Mandalay resident told RFA. "Pyi Gyi Dagon township was searched in the night. Cell phones were searched. People didn't dare come out if they had the red and black logos on their social media profiles. Young people were arrested on suspicion by the regime forces. Now, no matter where people live, life is insecure."

Mandalay-based militia the Freeland Attack Force claimed responsibility for laying mines in a military compound near Amarapura township on Monday. The group said the attack was in retaliation for the weekend executions.

It is still not clear whether the military raids and arrests were connected with the attack.

RFA is still investigating the ages and names of the arrested youths.

Calls by RFA to junta Deputy Information Minister Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun went unanswered on Tuesday.

Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Updated to include reports of unrest amid prison protests of the weekend's executions.

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