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Families of stranded Kawthaung prisoners raise complaint with president

In this file picture from Insein prison in Rangoon, families of inmates await the release of their loved ones. (AFP)

The families of inmates who have been stranded for seven days on an island near Moulmein while being transferred from Kawthaung prison said on Wednesday that they were sending a letter of complaint to Burmese President Thein Sein.

Some 170 inmates from Kawthaung prison in Tenasserim division were taken by boat to be transferred to various unspecified locations by prison authorities after a riot broke out in the prison nearly two weeks ago, leading to a confrontation with security forces. Burma’s state media reported that one inmate was killed and seven others injured, though it did not imply whether this happened during the altercation with police or in a fight that broke out earlier among prisoners.

Prison authorities subsequently decided to transfer 170 prisoners to other jails; however, according to local sources, some 120 prisoners have been stranded on an island near Moulmein for about seven days after their boat was forced to dock there due to bad weather.

“We are sending a letter of complaint to the president today,” said Myo Lwin, a resident in Kawthaung, speaking to DVB on Wednesday. “We are worried for the 120 inmates who have been stranded on the island for seven days now. We also informed the ICRC [International Red Cross] about this situation.”

He said the Kawthaung district administrator had told the concerned families that the inmates and security guards were taking shelter from bad weather on the island, but were not actually stranded there.

Myo Lwin said the families of more than 70 inmates had co-signed the letter to be sent to Thein Sein regarding the prison authorities’ treatment on their loved ones. He said the families had received pledges of support from the Democratic Party-Myanmar and the National League for Democracy, as well as civil society groups such as the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (88GPOS).

“Transferring prison inmates in such a manner is very ugly – we are calling on the government to inform the families where their loved ones were being sent to, and to form a committee to investigate this incident,” said Min Lwin of the 88GPOS.