Monday, 18 November 2019

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Plight of political prisoners deteriorates in 2009

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The political prisoners population in military-ruled Burma increased to 2,177 over the course of 2009, with over 120 are reportedly suffering from illness due to deplorable prison conditions, claims a new activist group report.

The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPPB), in its annual report, said while the ruling junta released a few hundred political prisoners it also arrested several more, resulting in an overall increase of 15 concerning the number of those imprisoned for their political beliefs as compared to a year previously.

The report also said that at least 48 political prisoners in 2009 reported fresh symptoms of illness, bringing the total number of ill health political prisoners to 129.

Bo Kyi, Joint-Secretary of AAPPB, on Friday said the increase in the number of political prisoners suffering from ill health is mainly due to poor prison conditions and a lack of proper medical treatment.

“Like in Kham Htee, most prisoners suffer from malaria, and when the illness is not given timely and proper treatment, the illness gets severe. Many political prisoners have now reported having neurological problems as well as poor eyesight,” Bo Kyi said.

AAPPB said 2009 was a very difficult year for political prisoners, with torture, prison transfers, and denial of medical treatment continuing unabated.

The transferring of prisoners to remote areas far from their families makes it more difficult for prisoners to receive care packages from families, as it is often too expensive or too far for families to visit their loved ones.

“As part of the junta’s widespread crackdown on political dissidents, prison authorities systematically denied numerous political prisoners their right to family visits,” the report said. 

“In many cases authorities denied family members the right to see their loved ones even after they had travelled hundreds of miles to remote jails at great expense, leading to psychological hardship for both prisoners and their families and additional health problems, as political prisoners rely on family members for supplementary food and medicines,” found AAPPB.

“Healthcare is only done in namesake, political prisoners are not given timely medical care. For example, those requiring an operation would only be granted such a procedure after the illness has well passed the operation stage,” one family member of a political prisoner told Mizzima.

The AAPPB said comedian and activist Zarganar was perhaps the most high profile of prisoners denied regular access to their family in 2009.

Meanwhile, 88-generation student leader Min Ko Naing, detained in northern Burma’s Putao jail, is suffering from high blood pressure and Ko Ko Gyi, imprisoned at Mai Sat prison in Shan state, is suffering from Hepatitis B.

In January 2009, as a result of inadequate medical treatment, 23-year old Kay Thi Aung suffered a miscarriage in prison, according to the political prisoner watchdog group.

Similarly, U Gambira, leader of the All Burma Monk’s Association during the September 2007 protests, suffered from various illnesses during 2009 as a result of torture and two prison transfers, the group said.

The venerable monk, after staging a hunger strike, contracted malaria in November 2009, further adding to his health woes.

The AAPPB reports that ethnic Shan leader Khun Htun Oo, detained at Putao prison in northern Burma’s Kachin state, suffered from hypertension, complications stemming from diabetes, bladder distention and a peptic ulcer throughout the year, but was still denied medical attention outside the prison.

“A majority of prisoners in remote prisons are suffering from malaria, and the overall conditions of the prisons have contributed to the further health deterioration for many detainees,” concludes the AAPPB.

Reporting by Myint Maung, writing by Mungpi


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