To visit a family member, friend, or colleague at Loikaw Prison in the Karenni State capital, you now have to show a registration and household list, and visits are allowed only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
“Usually, in the past, when you went to prison, you gave an inmate’s name at the entrance gate. That was it. Not anymore. When you enter now, you have to check your belongings somewhere. Then you are given a registration number. After that, they want a copy of your household list. Then, only your family members can enter,” said a Loikaw resident.
He said that the visitor must have the same household list as the inmate, and they can only send certain specified items. In the past, it was possible to visit the prison any week day from Monday to Friday, but currently visits are only allowed three days a week, from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.
After the bombing at Yangon’s Insein Prison on October 19 this year by an urban People’s Defense Force, access to all prisons was closed, and was only allowed again starting November 1.
The prison visitor interviewed above said that even though visitation is allowed again, stricter restrictions are in place, and family members are worried about their own safety, so it is difficult for family members who cannot come in person.
“There are some people who can only send parcels from a distance once every two months or so, through a third party. For family members who are far away, it’s difficult to send their loved ones in prison all the things they need,” said a local woman in Loikaw.
When prison visits were reopened, some family members regained access, but many were turned back because they did not have a household list or registration.
Family members of the incarcerated say that the inmates depend on food delivered from outside, since the food in the prison is neither sanitary nor sufficient. Under the current restrictions, it is more difficult for prisoners from far away to get food delivered by their families.
From the military coup on February 1, 2021 until November 1, 2022, 280 people have been imprisoned by the junta in Karenni State, according to the statement of the Progressive Karenni People’s Force (PKPF). Many of those are prisoners of conscience (political prisoners), but that number is not specified.