Govt alarmed by rising drug abuse in prisons

The government raised alarm over the high incidence of drug abuse among prisoners in the country underscoring the need to urgently address the problem, a senior human rights official said.

About 74 percent of male and female inmates in the country are in prison for drug-related cases, Myanmar National Human Rights Commission Vice Chair U Sit Myaing told the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw on June 21.

U Sit Myaing said there is a need to tighten surveillance system in order to curb the flow of drugs.

“To avoid [body] searching which can affect dignity, the use of modern X-ray machines and sniffer dogs is also advised,” he said.

He also said there is need to improve the living conditions of prisoners, noting that many prisons have become overcrowded.

An inspection of eight prisons in 2016, showed that while the aggregate capacity of the eight prisons were 6000, these were housing a total of 8466 prisoners.

He proposed the expansion of existing prisons and the building of new ones in order to make lives of prisoners more bearable.

“We have submitted to the Ministry of Health and Sports and requested more doctors and health workers in prisons to take care of prisoners’ health,” he said.

He also suggested the deployment of ambulance in prisons, installation of water-purifying machines, vaccination for infants living together with mothers under imprisonment, and finding ways for children nourishment and children’s rights fulfillment.

But U Sit Myaing said the problem of drug abuse has gone beyond the walls of the prison and into the inner cities of the country.

Cases of drug abuse are highest in Myitkyina and Myingyan and it is found to have spread even into Kathar, Shwebo and other inner cities, he said.

“Drug abuse is a case to be handled as a national issue,” he said.

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