Women who escaped the fighting in Myanmar are being detained and beaten in an Indian prison, according to a group that helps Burmese refugees.
The India For Myanmar group said Tuesday the women have gone on hunger strike to demand their release from the prison in Manipur state which borders Sagaing region and Chin state.
The group’s spokesperson Salai Dokhar said that the hunger strikers were being tortured at the command of prison authorities.
“The prison authorities promised to release them on Dec. 15. Since they were not released on the 15th, the inmates of the women’s prison went on a hunger strike from the 16th. But starting on the night of the 17th, they were forced to sleep where it had snowed as punishment,” he said.
“On Dec. 19, the authorities started beating the inmates. They called policemen and asked them to beat the female prisoners. I heard that there are some critically injured people.”
The husband of one of the women, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, told Radio Free Asia on Tuesday that 36 protesting Myanmar women were beaten.
“Those who have already been sentenced to five months in prison and fined were told that they would be released on Dec. 15. But they were not released, so they started protesting on the 16th. On the 18th they were beaten by policemen, and they were severely beaten,” the man said.
“My wife has swollen cheeks. Some of the women lost their Htamein [Burmese traditional lower dress for women]. The policemen stopped beating them when their Htamein came off and they looked inappropriate.”
He added that Burmese prisoners in the men’s dormitory had also been on hunger strike since Dec. 19 to support the female inmates.
There are currently around 100 Myanmar nationals in Manipur prisons. Male inmates are held in detention centers and the women are in prisons according to family members.
Manipur authorities charged those arrested under the Foreigners Act and sentenced them to a fine and imprisonment of up to six months.
RFA Burmese emailed the Indian Embassy in Yangon about the beatings but did not receive a reply at time of publishing on Wednesday.
Salai Dokhar said India For Myanmar would call on the chief minister of Manipur to release the Myanmar nationals as soon as possible and treat them as war victims.
Currently, a total of 86 Myanmar refugees and migrant workers are being held in Manipur prisons, according to those helping refugees and migrant workers.
They said there are around 6,000 Myanmar war refugees in Manipur state. Most of them are from Kale and Tamu townships in Sagaing region and Tedim, Tonzang townships in Chin state.
Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn and Taejun Kang.