Narinjara news

Riot at the Buthidaung Prison in Western Burma

August 19, 2002: A riot between the prisoners and prison guards broke out in the Burmese prison of Buthidaung in Arakan State last month, according to sources in the township.

The riot broke out when the prison guards came to pick up some of the inmates to be sent to gulag-style prison camps at Wa-fri-shat-taung at Pauktaw township and Kyiganbraung of Maungdaw township in Arakan State. Words quickly spread inside the prison that, the more than one hundred prisoners who had been picked up from the Buthidaung prison in June were sent to Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State - instead of to the prison camps - for portering duties for the Burmese Army in the war against the SSA, the guerrilla outfit named Shan State Army. The prisoners also learned that, those who were used as porters on forced labour duty in the Shan States got killed. The news came when a trader in the Shan State told one of the relatives of the prisoners that he saw some of the Rakhine prisoners from Buthidaung in the operational areas of the Shan State. Meanwhile, when the relatives of some of the prisoners came looking for the prisoners the prison authority could not give them any satisfactory answer. The relatives have heard nothing about the ‘missing’ prisoners ever since. Repeated attempts to track them down have failed.

For this reason, when the prison guards came to pick up some of the prisoners on what the guards called as ‘prison camp’ duties, the prisoners disagreed to comply with and a riot broke out within the prison. Sources in the administration told Narinjara that, the prisoners taken as porters had their hands roped in pairs, and were forced to carry military supplies to the operational areas. Prisoners from other prisons in Burma including Mandalay, Monywa, and Pyinmana, were also used in the operational areas as ‘human’ beasts of burden according to the trader in the operational areas available at Sittwe.

Parents (who declined to identify) of a young man who was arrested on the day of Buddhist Muslim riots in Sittwe that broke out in 2001 told that, their son with hundreds of prisoners were sent to the operational areas in the Shan States shortly after they were picked up and nothing has so far been heard of any of them ever since. They failed to trace their missing son even after they had made repeated inquiries to the authorities concerned. #