Malnutrition, Illness, and Isolation Plague Inmates at Loikaw Prison

By Network Media Group
Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Suffering from malnutrition and lack of healthcare, inmates are falling ill at Loikaw prison. Over 20 prisoners at the penitentiary in the Karenni State capital are sick, a person close to the guards informed NMG.

Inmates have seen their meals reduced and some have diarrhoea, suffered a paralytic stroke, or are afflicted with chronic illness. At the same time, their families have been prevented from seeing them since last August.

Ko Hter Hpoe, a former political prisoner and the spokesperson for Karenni Political Prisoner Association, said that before the cutbacks they received three meals a day: fried rice for breakfast, rice and yellow bean curry for lunch, and fish paste and vegetable soup for dinner.

Currently, they receive little protein. 

“If 10 prisoners receive a spoon of fish paste, it’s a good meal for them.”

Families used to bring them food, but the guards stopped giving it to them. Six inmates committed suicide in the last six months, which could be related to the deplorable conditions they’re forced to live in.

There are still 510 inmates being held, with 110 of them currently held for political offences following the coup over three years ago.

“Generally, all prisoners face hardships in prison,” he said. However, some non-political prisoners may attempt to manipulate the situation to improve their conditions. In contrast, prisoners of conscience don’t engage in such tactics; they endure their hardships with discipline.

Hter Hpoe says that all prisoners are suffering human rights abuses, but the situation is worse for the political prisoners.

The prisoners would fare better if international organisations helped them, he remarked, adding that the National Unity Government and Karenni State Interim Executive Council haven’t provided anything to them until now.

Last November, resistance groups stormed the capital as part of the 1111 Operation aimed at driving the military regime from Loikaw and the rest of Karenni State. Many of the Burma army’s positions have been captured in the town but the regime still control some areas, including the prison.