Political prisoners tortured after Monywa Prison riot

Some 20 political prisoners currently being held at Monya Prison in Sagaing Region have been subjected to repeated beatings and other forms of torture since a riot broke out there nearly a month ago.

A source close to some of the prisoners said that the torture began after an April 3 protest that turned violent when prison authorities responded to the unrest by opening fire.

Following the crackdown, at least 20 prisoners were taken to a separate ward, where they have been manacled and assaulted repeatedly for the past month, according to the source.

“Their feet are chained together, and a warder named Zaw Zaw Aung beats them whenever he’s drunk or stressed,” said the source, who did not want to be named.

“One prisoner’s nose was broken just the other day. They are also beaten with belts sometimes,” he added.

Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify these claims, but considers the source to be reliable.

Since the April 3 riot, around 150 political detainees have reportedly been transferred from Monywa to other prisons, including Myingyan Prison and Obo Prison in Mandalay.  

Those still being held at Monywa Prison have been denied permission to receive visitors or communicate with their families, according to relatives.

The source who reported the beatings also said that additional charges are expected to be laid against those currently being held in the separate ward inside the prison.

“The prison authorities are also planning to file more charges against them regarding the riot,” he said.

There were also reports of protests inside Hpa-An Prison in Kayin (Karen) State last Wednesday, allegedly over the beating of a political prisoner. No further details about that incident were available at the time of reporting.

In the third week of April, at least 100 political prisoners, including student leaders, were transferred from Yangon’s Insein Prison to other prisons around the country, according to multiple sources. 

Insein Prison and Obo Prison are among the country’s most notorious detention centres. Both have a reputation for their brutality towards political prisoners.

As of April 29, at least 10,449 people have been imprisoned in Myanmar for opposing the regime that seized power in February of last year, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

A photo published by a Facebook user on February 11 shows the remains of and damage to buildings in the war-torn town of Thantlang in Chin State (Lengkawite / Facebook)

Junta affairs

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim paid an official two-day visit to Thailand from February 9-10. In a meeting with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, PM Anwar urged Thailand to take greater action to address the growing crisis in neighbouring Myanmar, which has flared for over two years since a military coup in 2021. 

Citing comments made by Anwar to Prayuth at a joint press conference, Bloomberg quoted him as saying: 

“You are in a better position to express many of our concerns that the internal issue in Myanmar has to be resolved internally but it has ramifications or repercussions into the region.”


Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim (L) and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha (R) are seen after a meeting at the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, on February 9, 2023 (EPA)


On February 10, American oil corporation Chevron announced that its assets and holdings in Myanmar would be sold to Canadian company MTI. Chevron said that it had reached an agreement to sell an MTI subsidiary its 41.1 percent interest in the Yadana project, the natural gas from which is used domestically and exported to Thailand. The company did not reveal the amount for which it sold its stake. 

In compliance with the agreement, Chevron said it would depart Myanmar.

According to a report by rights group Justice For Myanmar, MTI Energy Inc, based in Edmonton, Alberta, is itself a subsidiary of oilfield equipment manufacturer Mitey Titan Industries. Its CEO reportedly heads several companies operating in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The Yadana gas project is Myanmar’s biggest, with the oil and gas industry serving as a primary source of foreign revenue for the junta. Yadana was previously operated by France’s TotalEnergies, which withdrew in 2022. The exit increased Chevron’s stake to 41.1 percent, making it the largest shareholder. The project’s current operator is PTTEP, a Thai state-owned firm, which works alongside the military-controlled Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise. 


Personnel from the Myanmar junta’s “peace talks team” met with the representatives of the New Mon State Party (NMSP) in Naypyitaw on February 13, according to a regime’s announcement in its newspapers. Lt-Gen Yar Pyae led the regime delegation and Nai Aung Min, vice chair of the NMSP, led the ethnic armed organisation’s team. According to the junta, both sides discussed proposals on issues of amending “fundamental sections” of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. The NMSP signed the now-defunct Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in 2018, when the country was under the elected civilian government led by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, later deposed in the 2021 coup.


A photo published by regime mouthpiece Global New Light of Myanmar of the meeting between representatives of the military and the New Mon State Party on February 13

During a similar series of meetings late last month, the military met with another delegation from the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) headed by its chair, Yawd Serk. They reportedly also discussed amendments to the 2008 charter, among other issues. The regime released a statement after the third day of talks on January 26 declaring that the two groups had signed “final comprehensive peace agreements,” but did not elaborate on what this entailed. 

Armed groups actively resisting the coup regime have denounced any participation by ethnic armed organisations in the junta’s “peace talks” as long as the military continues a nationwide campaign of repression against civilians and political opponents. 

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