Monday, 20 January 2020

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Zarganar’s sister-in-law demands junta revoke bar on jail visits

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The sister-in-law of political prisoner and comedian Zarganar, demanded today authorities lift a new regulation that blocks her from seeing him, she said.

The 49-year-old entertainer and activist has been in junta custody since June 2008 after originally being sentenced to 59 years in prison, commuted on appeal to 35 years, for public order offences after speaking to foreign media about the millions of people left homeless in the the Irrawaddy Delta in the wake if Cyclone Nargis. He has been serving his sentence in Myitkyina prison, in the capital of Kachin, the northernmost state of Burma.

He had also before the “crime” led a group of entertainers to help Nargis victims ignored by the authorities.

According to the new regulation, the prison authority will let only Thura’s wife or children visit him. Zarganar’s wife Lwin Mar Oo, his 24-year-old son Myat Kaung and 19-year-old daughter Nge Oo Mon are now living in Los Angeles, in the United States.

“I’ve seen him regularly in visits since he was in Insein prison. Now they maliciously imposed a new regulation that permits only his wife and children in these prison visits … They should not do it. So I’d like to demand [that the junta] lift this new regulation”, his sister-in-law Ma Nyein told Mizzima.

She last met Zarganar on May 17 and news spread about a possible rule allowing only immediate family members to visit Zarganar. The prison authority confirmed the rule on June 25.

Family members sent food and medicine to Zarganar last Wednesday with a relative of a fellow inmate. Jail officials accepted the parcel and explained their new regulation, saying it had not banned prison visits with Zarganar, but only that his wife and children could meet him.

“This is strange to hear. His wife and children are now living in the United States and they would have to come back to Burma to meet [him],” Ma Nyein complained.

Aung Thein, a lawyer based in Rangoon, said that according to the prisons manual, a relative of a prisoner or a person that can prove he or she was related to a prisoner was entitled to visits.

“There is no regulation in the prison manual that permits only husband and wife, father, mother and children to meet a prisoner. They [authorities] must permit anyone who can prove being a relative of the prisoner or anyone whose name is included in the family household registration certificate”, he said.

Ma Nyein’s name is included on the junta-imposed family household registration certificate as she is the younger sister of Lwin Mar Oo.

Each visit to Myitkyina prison costs her at least 800,000 Kyats (US$800), meaning she can only afford to make the trip north once every two months. She usually sends a food parcel that includes coffee, fried fish paste, fried mutton, and medicine for his hypertension, heart and stomach ailments, supplies that usually lasted one month, she said.

She usually leaves about a further 80,000 to 100,000 Kyats with a prison guard as pocket money for Zarganar to buy food supplies and essentials from the market for the second month before her return. The figure includes a “service fee” to the guard who buys the supplies.

In 2008, was charged with three offences under the Electronics Act and the Insein prison court sentenced him to a total 45 years on November 21. Later the Rangoon West District court gave him an extra 14 year for violations under five sections of the Video Act for instigation against public order and state security, bringing the total to 59 years.

On appeal, eight years from each of the penalties for the charges under the Electronics Act, or 24 years, was cut, reducing the overall sentence to 35 years.

His mother writer Daw Kyi Oo died on March 20 last year and writer father Nan Nyunt Swe died last month while also imprisoned at Myitkyina.


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