Concern at Insein jailhouse surgery

Doctors at a hospital inside Rangoon’s Insein prison say they will perform surgery on the former army captain Nay Myo Zin, who is yet to receive treatment for a fractured vertebrae.

But his family and lawyer, who have repeatedly lobbied the government to release him in order that he can receive medical care, say the facilities inside the prison are not fit for such an operation.

His health is believed to be deteriorating, and when his wife visited him last Thursday he was brought out from the prison hospital on a stretcher after severe back pain stemming from the fractured bone left him unable to walk.

The 36-year-old’s lawyer, Hla Myo Myint, told DVB that he has also needed assistance getting to the toilet.

The injury is believed to have resulted from a fall he had in his jail cell.  The former army captain-turned-charity worker is serving a 10-year sentence on charges of subversion stemming from articles he published that allegedly defamed the Burmese military.

“He was kept at the prison hospital which not well-equipped at all,” said the lawyer. “There’s no medicine to treat his condition; that can only be obtained from the orthopaedic hospital [in Rangoon].”

Nay Myo Zin’s mother, Khin Thi, said the family will visit him on 3 November and decide then whether to approve the operation.

“Apparently doctors suggested he needs to have a surgery and that it could be arranged at the prison’s hospital. Maybe he’ll get better or he won’t. It requires a signature approval from his relative so we will ask for his opinion [before deciding],” she said.

Prison authorities appear to have rejected a letter sent two weeks ago by his family requesting that he be treated outside of the hospital.

An official from the government’s Prison Administration Department admitted last year that there were, in total, 109 medical staff assigned to all the prisons, equating to one for every 8000 inmates. Only 32 of these were fully trained.

Prisoners are often forced to bribe medical staff in order to receive treatment; the majority who cannot have to rely on medicine supplied by visiting family members.

Nay Myo Zin’s legal team have consistently criticised his sentencing, which came five months after the new Burmese government came to power. An appeal was submitted a month ago to Rangoon Divisional Court 6 but to date no response has been issued.

Correction: The original story wrongly stated that Nay Myo Zin had suffered a fractured pelvis, whereas in fact it was a fractured vertebrae. The necessary amendments have been made.

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