The military council has reinstated family visits to prison in many areas across the country on 24 October. However, only one family member is allowed to visit each prisoner, and the former need to bring their national ID, family member list, and approval letters from ward administration and police stations issued within one week.
This interview with Ko Theik Tun Oo, a leading member of the Myanmar Political Prisoners Network, is about his view on the military council’s permission to family members to visit prisoners, loss of prisoner rights, and possible access of ICRC to prisons.
TLT: What is your view on the military council’s permission to family visits to prisoners, and why is the root cause on removing the ban?
Ko Theik Tun Oo: One of its reasons is to persuade people to cooperate with them while people are staying away from their administrative facilities as much as possible. For the prion visit, the respective family members need to go to police stations and ward administration office to get the required documents. People will need to pay fee for to get Covid-19 vaccinated. Their intention is to produce a propaganda of public participation in their administrative mechanism. They have banned prison visit over three years since 2020. Although they have lifted the ban, they have imposed some restrictions not to able to make the visits, with asking the original documents of family member list, national ID and only one family member only once a month initially. Actually, the military do not have good volition in this program. But it is just to lessen pressure on them. The propaganda of military is to show access of families of inmates to the prison.
TLT: Is reinstatement of prison visit scheme by the military council helpful for the inmates? What do you think?
Ko Theik Tun Oo: We, ourselves, were not allowed to have family visitors over two years. We suffered annoyance and stress in the prison. We had no way to cope with our anxiety in the prison. Family visit to prisoners could deal with their stress to a certain extent. Meanwhile, the families also are worrying about human rights violation in prisons. Prisons will practice its rules, the inmates will continue suffer oppression. The family visit to prisoners could lessen human rights violations.
TLT: Will military council’s reinstatement of family visit to prisoners pave the way for ICRC t visit prisoners? What do you think?
Ko Theik Tun Oo: We are still monitoring the scheme. It is also possible that the military would stop this program any time. They would make incident to infiltrate the prisons, and will stop the prisons with security reason. We will need to wait and see their scheme. ICRC has requested the military for prison visit. If they were allowed to meet prisoners, the abuses in prisons will surely spread outside and to the world. Prison officials try to control inflow and outflow of news between the prison and outside.
TLT: Although the family visit to prisoner program has been reinstated on 24 October, the ban has not been lifted in some prisons. Why is it so?
Ko Thike Tun: The dates for visit are different among the prisons. For example, the number of inmates in Insein prison is very high, about thousands of prisoners. If the visit was allowed in the same day, the prison will be so crowded with the visitors. Prisoners there will be allowed to have family visits on 3 or 4 November. Authorities are checking the size of prisons and the number of inmates there. They will first monitor the family visit programs at the small prisons. The date of visits will be different among the prisons. However, we have learned that this program will be available at almost all the prisons across the country.