Thursday, May 28, 2009

Paramilitary Forces Beef Up Insein Prison Security

Aung San Suu Kyi's supporters brave the rain as they wait in front
of a police barricade near Insein prison in Rangoon
on May 22. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Irrawaddy News

RANGOON — About 500 members of the paramilitary group Swan Arr Shin and the government-affiliated Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) are reportedly being paid to strengthen security around Insein Prison, where Aung San Suu Kyi stands trial.

Crowds of members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy and other activists gather daily near the prison to show solidarity with her, and the deployment of pro-regime forces is seen as an attempt to intimidate them.

The hired irregulars, who helped police break up price-rise protests in August 2007, are paid 2,000 kyat (US $2) a day and provided with lunch, according to a ward official from Insein Township’s West Ywa Ma quarter. The daily fee would rise to as much as 20,000 kyat ($20) if they were called upon to deal with any outbreak of trouble, the official said.

"They are from the outskirts of Rangoon, such as Daw Pon, Shwe Pyi Thar and Hlaing Thar Yar Townships, although some are also from Insein Township,” he said.

The hired force includes several women. "I came here because I will get 2,000 kyat and a free lunch,” said one 28-year-old woman from Shwe Lin Ban village in Hlaing Thar Yar Township. She was assigned by Swan Arr Shin to join other women in patrolling the Insein market area and watch for any outbreak of trouble there.

Other Swan Arr Shin groups are reportedly deployed at the NLD headquarters and places frequented by NLD members.

"The authorities usually deploy double the number of NLD members [at any gathering],” said a resident of Insein Township’s Pein Ne-Kone ward. “If the NLD assembles 200 activists, the authorities posts 400 of their own people, believing they can intimidate the NLD with sheer numbers.”

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