Insein Jail

   Burma's largest prison, located in Insein Township in the northern part of Rangoon (Yangon), near the Hlaing River. Built by the British in 1887, the extensive main prison is an octagonal structure with cell blocks radiating out from the center and surrounded by two brick walls. Before World War II, the British used it to confine leaders of the independence struggle, including Thakin Than Tun. Political prisoners continued to be housed there after the country became independent in 1948. Their numbers increased significantly during the Ne Win era (1962-1988), especially following the labor strike and U Thant Incident of 1974. A riot that broke out under mysterious circumstances in August 1988 led to the escape of many common criminals from the jail (and from eight other prisons around the country). The escapees roamed the city streets, sowing an atmosphere of fear and panic among ordinary citizens. This gave rise to suspicions that the breakouts had been arranged by the government to create the atmosphere for a military power seizure.
   At present, Insein Jail has about 9,000-10,000 prisoners in the main and attached facilities. Of these, an estimated 1,600 are political prisoners. Although political prisoners received lenient treatment during the British and U Nu periods, since 1962 they have been singled out for harsh treatment, including torture, denial of adequate medical treatment, and solitary confinement. They often endure violence at the hands of ordinary criminals, including gangsters who serve in powerful "trusty" positions. Prominent oppositionists who have been confined there since 1988 include U Tin U, U Kyi Maung, and Min Ko Naing. Following the "Black Friday" Incident of May 30, 2003, Aung San Suu Kyi may have been confined there briefly. Other jails where political prisoners have been kept under severe conditions include those at Thayet and Tharrawaddy.
   See also Human Rights in Burma.

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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