Myanmar: Activists fight on in belly of the beast

Political prisoners have continued to express dissent from inside, often with violent consequences, as tensions simmer with prison officials.

On January 5 at around 11pm, four political prisoners were dragged from their cells in Pathein Prison and brutally beaten by prison authorities.

They suddenly raided their rooms and found a mobile phone,” said Ko Kyaw Oo, a former political prisoner who now helps others in the Ayeyarwady Region capital who have been jailed for defying the junta. Of the roughly 1,500 prison inmates, around 300 are political prisoners.

Kyaw Oo insists that, in the first place, the prisoners would only have been able to get a phone by purchasing it from prison authorities making a steep profit. “If a cellphone costs K300,000 outside, it will cost K1.5 million in the prison. Only the prison staff can sell it. So, they know who has the phone,” Kyaw Oo said. “Then they will catch them and beat them. After that, they will sell the phone again to somebody else. The prison staff earn money from this.