A newly-inaugurated two-storey building is infusing hope among young detainees at Mandalay Central Prison in Myanmar. The result of a collaboration between the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Prisons Department, this building is the new Vocational Training Centre where detainees will have the opportunity to continue their education and learn technical skills that will prepare them for life after release.


Inaugurated on 18 January 2020, the centre has four fully-equipped workshops and classrooms where participants will learn vocational skills such as hairdressing, carpentry, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering. The aim is to provide technical certification to 300-400 young detainees each year.

Video: Thang Khan Sian Khai

The building project was started in 2018, keeping in mind that reintegration into society can be a hard process for most detainees and particularly so for young detainees whose education may have been suspended midway.

The programme will run in cooperation with various agencies and organizations including the Myanmar Business Executives Association (MBEA), which will offer entrepreneurship training.

Speaking at the inauguration, the director general of Prisons Department, U Myint Soe, said, "Providing vocational training for detainees has been one of the aims of our department. We are pleased to work with various partners, including the ICRC, for this initiative that will offer young detainees the opportunity to gain skills useful for eventual employment." Director of Prisons Department, U Cho Win Tun, was also present at the inauguration.


The ICRC's cooperation with the Prisons Department has evolved over the years to include technical support, public health and better access to basic services alongside the core work of addressing needs of all detainees and helping them maintain contact with their families.

"Since 2013, more than 50 projects have been implemented by the Prisons Department at Mandalay Central Prison with ICRC support. Over the years, these projects have progressively adapted from addressing essential needs such as clean water and sanitation, to providing services including education, improving contact with families and vocational training. These are remarkable achievements that we hope will contribute to reforming the prison systems in Myanmar," said Stephan Sakalian, head of delegation in Myanmar.

In 2019, the ICRC's staff visited more than 47,000 detainees in 24 prison visits across Myanmar. The ICRC remains committed to supporting the work of the national prison service and providing expert advice in the fields of water management, hygiene, sanitation, health and ensuring respect for judicial guarantees.