Myanmar: ICRC water and sanitation projects in three prisons

15-09-2011 Interview

As agreed with the Myanmar government, an ICRC engineer has been conducting surveys and tests that could lead to upgrades of water and sanitation supply facilities in three prisons. The ICRC is seeking further dialogue with a view to resuming visits to detainees.

The ICRC has been seeking to re-establish a broad dialogue with the Myanmar government on humanitarian issues, including those pertaining to detention – both in terms of possible technical support it could provide and of a possible resumption of visits to detainees. Georges Paclisanu, the head of the ICRC delegation in Myanmar, explains recent developments in ICRC activities in prisons in the country.

Recently, the Myanmar government said that the ICRC had started prison visits and aid programme in prisons in the country. What kind of activities does it carry out?

The ICRC is currently working with the government on proposals to upgrade water and energy supply facilities in three prisons in the country. On our side, this work is based on a survey carried out during a site visit by our expatriate engineer in July and on tests that will be completed very soon. Once the proposals have been finalized and an agreement has been reached with the Ministry of Home Affairs, implementation will commence. The process will be supervised by our expatriate engineer. Although detainees will obviously be the beneficiaries, the proposals do not involve visits to them.

So will the ICRC be carrying out prison visits, just as it does in other parts of the world?

No, what we are proposing to do here concerns the facilities supporting the lives of detainees. So we would not be making "ICRC prison visits" as such, in accordance with our standard working procedures that we follow all over the world. We would not be speaking directly with prisoners or holding interviews in private with them. We would therefore not be able to reliably report on their conditions of incarceration.

Does the ICRC aim to carry out standard visits to prisons in Myanmar again?

We intend to pursue two parallel aims. One is to provide technical assistance and supplies for the Correctional Department. The other is to hold talks with the government on resuming visits to prisoners – to security detainees in particular – in accordance with our standard procedures.

Do you plan to expand your activities beyond those relating to detention?

I cannot elaborate much on bilateral exchanges with the Myanmar government. I can say, however, that we are discussing the possibility of the ICRC providing technical support for one or more government limb-fitting centres in order to boost their production of prostheses. Other areas of cooperation are also under consideration.



Georges Paclisanu