Wed 31 May 2006
Filed under: Health / AIDS,News
A prison warder from Tharawaddy Jail in lower central Burma told DVB what really happened during the cholera outbreak in 2005 in which nearly 20 prisoners died unnecessarily.
â€œThat was the time of prison governor U Myint Swe. The swine which was bred for the benefit of outside prison staff died. We don’t know with which disease this pig died of. So we had a discussion on what to do with the dead pig. The prisoner governor said, these prisoners, they don’t know what is happening. Just sell it (the dead pig) to these starving creatures/animals. If you sell it to the outside, nobody will buy it. Your dead pig is only dead meat therefore just sell it inside. Prison governor U Myint Swe, deputy-governor U Myint Soe, the chief warder U Myo Win, the chief prison supervisor U Win Myunt were all in it. They are of the same gang. The main thing is every thing is done if the governor says done. So his order was followed. We distributed (the meat of the pig) with profit. We told them (prisoners to pay when their relatives come to see them and we sold (the meat) 500 Kyat a viss and we were also able to eat (make profit) a little bit. Not long after that, a day after the cooking/consumption of the pork, the cholera outbreak started. I think about 17 people died.â€
When asked how the prison authorities dealt with the deaths of prisoners, the staff said:
â€œAs it happened inside the prison and the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) didn’t enter (was not allowed to check) the prison, as we were with our respective superiors, we hade to make up a story that said that the cholera started when a prisoner brought in ‘stomach-softening’ food from outside. As we are civil servants, I will tell you honestly. If you cremate a human being and a dog uncovers it, you will blame the dog. (Always blame the underdogs when things go wrong?) The situation is like this.â€
When asked about the reports about the use of prisoner labour to make joss sticks for companies such as Lotayat, he gave the details as follows:
â€œYes, it is true. As for this joss-stick business, there were pig breeding businesses. There, they gave vet two stars (promoted to the deputy position). When they gave this person two stars, he became the deputy prison governor. Someone under his supervision, a man named U Htay Win, he now lives in Tharawaddy New Town. This person’s relatives in Kyoppinkauk are in joss-stick business. As he is the deputy-governor and familiar with the joss-stick business and he learnt how to exploit the unpaid labour of prisoners, from then on, the joss-stick making business thrived at Tharawaddy Jail. What Lotayat claims is their joss sticks are blessed as they are made by people who practice vegetarianism and wear clean (unadorned) clothes. Inside the prison, we can’t afford to eat meat. So all are vegetarians and on top of that, they wear clean clothes (unadorned convict uniforms). So its claim seems to be true. But I don’t know how (the joss sticks) are blessed. The joss sticks come out the prison in the rough form and when they reach them (companies), they spray scents on them and distribute them to the market.â€