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March 2, 2024

Prisoner killed as inmates break out of police van in Naypyidaw

Police shot dead a prisoner who was among nine that escaped from a prison van in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw, a source close to the prison told RFA.

The vehicle was taking inmates back from the Pyinmana District Court to Yamethin Prison, 97 kilometers (60 miles) north of the capital on Wednesday, when some prisoners attacked the guards and grabbed a gun.

A source close to the Prison Department who did not want to be named for security reasons, told RFA police opened fire, killing one inmate and recapturing two others.

The van was carrying 19 men and two women, including political prisoners.

“There were about six political prisoners. The rest are criminal prisoners,” the source said.

“Those escaped are the Yamethin’s notorious prisoners, facing long terms and who have been imprisoned for 50 years for murder, rape and robbery, not the political prisoners.” 

Fearing a prison riot, authorities sent the remaining inmates to Pyinmana Police Station for temporary custody.

A political prisoner who was recently released from Yamethin told RFA he was concerned the political prisoners would be punished even though they did not take part in the escape.

“I am worried that the political prisoners who are facing trial at the court will be in more trouble after this incident,” said the man who also declined to be named.

“I am worried there will be more cases filed against the political prisoners who were in the vehicle [even though] this incident has nothing to do with them.”

A policeman was injured during the escape and is being treated in a local hospital, according to a source close to the prison.

Naing Win, deputy director general of the Myanmar Prisons Department, did not answer when RFA called him to ask about the incident.

Prison breaks are not uncommon in Myanmar despite tight security.

In September, a prison transport vehicle heading to Mandalay’s Obo Prison from the city’s Kyaukse Police Station was attacked by an unknown group and two inmates escaped.

The same month,, five political prisoners broke out of their cell in Pakokku Prison in Magway region, climbed over a high wall and escaped.

Brutal conditions in Myanmar’s prisons have led to at least seven riots by prisoners protesting violations of their rights, including beatings and torture by prison guards.

Nearly 20,000 people have been arrested for their views and pro-democracy activities since Myanmar’s military overthrew the democratically elected government just over two years ago, according to figures compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Almost 16,000 political prisoners are still being held, the Thailand-based group said..

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.

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