An average of 161 prisoners sent to prison work camps between 1978 and 2004 died from starvation and other causes each year, deputy minister of Home Affairs Brig-Gen Kyaw Kyaw Tun told Parliament.
The number fell to an average of 142 deaths per year from May 12, 2004 to March 31, 2011, the deputy minister said, putting this decline in fatalities down to a change in the work prisoners were forced to do.
Instead of being having to turn rocks into gravel, clear forests and build roads, 2004 saw a switch to agricultural and livestock-breeding work, the deputy minister said. During this period 999 prisoners died at the camps, he added.
The number of deaths at 46 camps has fallen to a rate of 36 per year from April 1, 2011 to Augusts 31 of this year, or a total of 142, Kyaw Kyaw Tun said.
He was responding to questions from MP Thein Nyunt about the number of prison camps, the number of inmates, and how many died due to lack of food, water or medical treatment.
Thein Nyunt also asked if there were plans to transform the prison camps during the current transition to democracy so that they met basic standards of human rights.
Kyaw Kyaw Tun said the government was already adhering to them. There are currently more than 10,000 prisoners in 46 camps that produce agricultural goods or focus on livestock breeding, he added.