Friday, January 9, 2009

Teenage Activist Transferred to Labor Camp

The Irrawaddy News

A teenage political activist, who was sentenced last month to three years imprisonment for taking part in the 2007 monk-led demonstrations, was transferred last week from Insein Prison to Shwe Tathay labor camp in Twante Township, according to a source close to his family.

Prisoners in Burmese labor camps have to endure harsh conditions and brutal treatment, and are compelled to work long days in chain-gangs at highways, dams, irrigation canals, special agricultural projects and rock quarries.

Kyaw Zaw, 19, a second year student at Yangon Eastern University, was arrested some months ago by Burmese Special Forces at his residence in Bahan Township, Rangoon Division, for his involvement in the 2007 pro-democracy uprising.

Sources in Rangoon said that in another case, political prisoner Zaw Naing Htwe was transferred last week to Lay Mine labor camp in Taungoo Township. He is currently serving a nine-year sentence for smuggling a letter from his brother—political prisoner Kyaw Kyaw Htwe, aka Marki—out of Insein Prison.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Bo Kyi, the joint secretary of Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), said that his organization is worried for the lives and health of the political prisoners who have been transferred to labor camps across Burma.

“Several political prisoners, especially NLD party members, have been transferred to labor camps,” said Bo Kyi. “Some were killed working as porters during fighting at the front lines.

“Transferring political prisoners to labor camps is like pushing them into their graves,” he added.

He said that prisoners at Burmese labor camps are exposed to terrible health conditions and torture.

The Burmese military government has been exploiting prisoners in chain-gangs since 1962, when they were forced to work on the Pale-Gangaw road construction project. The junta later conscripted prisoners to work as porters in offensives against ethnic insurgency groups.

According to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), a total of 17 political prisoners, including one Buddhist monk, who were arrested after the 2007 protests, have been transferred to labour camps across the country.

In September, a 28-year-old monk, Ashin Pannasiri, escaped from Lantalang labour camp in Chin State while he was serving a three-year sentence.

Comedians Par Par Lay, Lu Zaw, U Htwe and U Aung were transferred in 1996 to a labor camp in Kachin State, where prisoners constructed the Myitkyina Airport. Later, they were sent to Sumprabun labor camp in Kachin State to build a road.

In 1997, the military authorities forced 18 NLD political prisoners from Taungoo Township in Pegu Division to serve as military porters at the front line of military operations in an offensive against the insurgent Karen National Union. One prisoner, Saw Htun Nwe, 75, died of physical exhaustion while other NLD members were severely wounded.

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