Narinjara news

Burmese Prisoners in a Bangladeshi jail – on another Hunger strike

Chittagong, 4th November:  Two hundred and thirty seven Burmese prisoners in the Bandarban prison, in the southeastern hilly district of Bangladesh bordering with Burma, some of whom have overstayed their prison terms by as much as nine years threatened to resort to another ‘fast unto death’ hunger strike unless they are repatriated, according to our correspondent.

As the prisoners started their hunger strike on Saturday the District Commissioner of Bandarban visited the prison and called on them to refrain from ‘such meaningless acts’ on condition that he would try his best to take measures for solving their prolonged detention.  In reply the prisoners told the DC that, they would go for mass suicide unless immediate steps are taken to repatriate or free them.

The prisoners who were arrested for illegal entry to Bangladesh had already undergone various prison terms under the existing laws of the land.  Though their terms of detention have ended long since, they have not been freed for the bureaucratic confusion resulting from the Burmese junta’s refusal to recognize them as their own citizens.  “Many of the ‘released’ prisoners come from homes forcefully relocated by the Burmese junta in the 90s,” said a released Burmese prisoner kept under the custody of the UNHCR, Bangladesh, “making it difficult for the junta to track down the exact ‘present’ locations of the addresses of many of the families the prisoners come from.”

A source in the jail told our correspondent that the Burmese prisoners would take up mass suicide if they are not freed shortly.  They expressed that the life in the jail has become unbearable for the inhuman conditions prevailing there.  It is alleged that many of the ‘troublemaking’ Burmese ‘released’ prisoners are now kept in solitary confinement – for ‘fear of more trouble.’

The prison authority said that a number of state-level correspondences have been made  for the release of these prisoners to no effect since all the while the Burmese authority have remained silent refusing to answer the queries.

Last March there was another continuous hunger strike of three hundred Burmese prisoners in Bandarban jail who the authority moved to other prisons in Bangladesh to avoid a bloody confrontation.

According to a source, the district administration is in a tight fix regarding the ways to deal with the prisoners because there is no other way besides repatriating them through international efforts. 

Meanwhile the environment inside the Bandarban jail is deteriorating with the uneasiness prevailing among the Burmese prisoners detained for too long inside the jail.  #