Kachin Political Prisoners Remain Behind Bars

A day after the European Union lifted it


Rabu, 03 Jul 2013 12:28 WIB


Banyol Kong Janoi

Kachin Political Prisoners Remain Behind Bars

Burma politicial prisoners, Kachin state, amnesty to political leaders

A day after the European Union lifted it’s sanctions last week, the Myanmar government granted amnesty to 93 prisoners, including 59 political prisoners.

But in Kachin state, activists claim that hundreds of political prisoners are still in jail.

Most of them are accused of being rebel group sympathizers, like Brang Shawng.

At the refugee camp in Myitkyina, 40-year-old Ze Nyoi says she still remembers the day her husband was taken away last year.

“It was 9 pm on a Sunday night. The authorities came and said that they had some enquiries so they took my husband. The camp leader went along with him. Then they took my husband into the interrogation room." 

"The next day, we went back again,” she adds. “The authorities asked us to buy some food for my husband and promised to let us see him, but as time went by, we were no longer allowed to visit him.”

Brang Shawng was accused of being a captain in the rebel group armed wing Kachin Independence Army and implicated in a bomb plot.

He was returned to the camp for three days, only to be officially arrested.

“My husband was wearing short pants when they took him. When I saw him the first time, he was wearing a long sarong so it covered up his wounds. All of his body was covered in wounds. I didn't recognize his face because of those wounds. I was crying and crying till I passed out."

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced in Kachin state since 2011, when a 17-year ceasefire with the government broke down.

Since then, the government has been accusing refugees of being rebel supporters and has stopped the supply of humanitarian aid to them.

“If we were connected to the rebel group, we wouldn't come here to live in a refugee camp. We would go to Liza, the rebel’s headquarters and live in comfort. Here, we struggle for food. Sometimes, we just eat rice without any curry.”

In February this year, the government held peace talks with the Kachin rebel group and both sides agreed to try to reduce military tensions and continue dialogue.

But as yet, no formal ceasefire agreement has been reached.

Instead of dialogue, a local NGO claims the government has arrested up to 100 refugees allegedly accusing them of being rebel supporters.

Camp leader U Aung Myet believes that Brang Shawng is innocent.    

“I have investigated Brang Shawng’s background… from his birth until he was arrested. I met his school teacher and his employer. Brang Shawng used to work at a traditional goldmine .. and that’s very different from the government’s account.”

The international community has been campaigning for his immediate release.

He was reportedly brutally tortured during the interrogation and forced to confess to different bombings in the area.

Last year he was brought to trial with knife marks and bruises on his cheeks and thighs.

“During the first confession, the judge found a recording device taped to Brang Shawng’s body. The case has now been postponed for a re-examination, we don’t understand why. We want a fair trial. We want the judge who saw the tape to be our witness.”

The judge has since been taken off the case.

In March this year, the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Quintana, visited the Myitkyina prison. There he met Brang Shawng and other Kachin prisoners held on similar charges. In his report, he confirmed that Brang Shawng had been tortured by the military during their interrogation and forced to give a false confession.

Ze Nyoi now has to raise the family alone in the refugee camp in Myitkyina.

She’s still hopeful of seeing her husband again.

“I am very optimistic that he will be released soon. He hasn’t commit any crime.”


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