Thursday, June 4, 2009

Health Problems Increasing for Political Prisoners

The Irrawaddy News

Increasing numbers of Burma’s political prisoners are suffering ill health, according to their families and the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Many of them are serving long sentences in remote prisons, far from their families, who have difficulty maintaining contact.

They include several women, including Nobel Aye, known as Hnin May Aung, who is reportedly ill with jaundice in Shwe Bo Prison, Sagaing Division, where she is serving an 11 year sentence.

Kyi Than, a teacher from Henzada Township, Irrawaddy Division, was transferred from Pyarpon Prison, Irrawaddy Division, to Rangoon’s Insein Prison for treatment of a skin disease. Kyi Than was arrested in August 2007 for his involvement in political activities and was sentenced to nine years imprisonment.

One inmate of Insein Prison is reportedly being refused medical treatment for injuries he received while being arrested. Zaw Nyunt was beaten up by members of the pro-regime Union Solidarity and Development Association and paramilitary Swan Ar Shin when demonstrating at Insein market on May 28.

A source close to Insein Prison authorities said Zaw Nyunt suffered mouth injuries. “He has not been allowed visits by his family and the prison authorities refuse to treat him because he was injured outside the prison,” the source said.

The AAPP reported in May that at least 127 political prisoners are in poor health. Nineteen of them require urgent medical treatment, including Aung San Suu Kyi, comedian Zarganar, female labor activist Su Su Nway and 88 Generation Students leader Min Ko Naing.

AAPP Joint Secretary Bo Kyi said systematic torture, long-term imprisonment, transfers to remote prisons and denial of medical treatment took its toll on the prisoners’ health.

An AAPP report said more than 350 activists have been sentenced since October 2008, and the majority of them have been transferred to remote jails away from their families. However, the prison transfers make it difficult for family members to visit and provide essential medicine.

Since November 2008, at least 228 political prisoners have been transferred to remote prisons across the country away from their families. The long-term consequences for the health of political prisoners recently transferred would be very serious, said the report.

There are 44 prisons in Burma, and at least 50 labor camps. Not all have hospital facilities and at least 12 do not even have a resident doctor.

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