Burma: Prisons Act Reform Proposal Rejected By Home Minister
By Ahunt Phone Myat
A proposal submitted to the People’s Parliament by Thingangyun township MP, Thein Nyunt, to reform the Prison’s act, has been rejected by the speaker of the house because the speaker said the Home Ministry was already drafting a revised Prisons Act.
While no discussion of an amnesty has taken place, despite reports to the contrary in the state mouth piece the New Light of Myanmar.
The Prisons Act proposal by Thein Nyunt intended; “to provide necessary arrangements for drafting a bill of the Prisons Act, which is agreeable to the 21st century and guarantee human dignity and to introduce the bill to the third regular session of the first Pyithu Hluttaw”.
Pe Than, People’s Parliament representative of Arakan State’s Myebon township told DVB that;
“There were six non-USDP representatives who discussed in favour of [Thein Nyunt’s proposal] and three USDP representatives argued against it. The Home Affairs minister said his ministry was already preparing to submit the bill in the parliament and the [parliament] speaker decided to only keep a record of U Thein Nyunt’s proposal without giving him a chance to argue back,” said Pe Than.
Whilst on Home Affairs Minister, Lieutenant General Ko Ko’s discussion on the bill, Pe Than added that;
“It is not yet revealed which sections [of the prisons act] will be changed – he just spoke generally and said that there have been preparations to change some, if not all, sections in the law regarding the worst situations such as issues with food, accommodation, solitary confinement, transferring of inmates to remote prisons, inmates not being allowed to get medical assistance or to read books and newspapers, non-judicial punishment by prison officials.”
There will be concern that the Prisons Act revision by the Home Ministry will therefore not carry the necessary legislation that prevents torture and inhuman treatment of prisoners as critics and former inmates allege is routine in Burma’s prison system.
Thein Nyunt said: “We have to shine a spotlight and ensure, when the parliament discusses this new prisons act, that it is in accordance with the article 44 of the constitution, that; No penalty shall be prescribed that violates human dignity and also the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights, that states that; No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
A question regarding prison laws was also raised in the National Parliament yesterday where regional judges are to continue to submit prison reports to the Union Supreme Court as provided in the 1962 Prisons Act.
Upholding any law, debated in parliament or not, will continue to be problematic with the rule of law seemingly ignored as trials take place behind closed doors and with judges like the vast majority of MPs are appointees of the military, and seriously lacking in autonomy.