Monk Gambira in ‘mental, physical decline’

The family of jailed monk Ashin Gambira has pleaded with Burma’s president to release him in order that the 32-year-old can receive emergency medical treatment.

His sister, Khin Thu Htay, told DVB that for the past few months, doctors in Kale prison have been giving Gambira powerful sedatives to treat the chronic pain he has suffered as a result of torture during his early days in detention.

Reports from the prison suggest he is reacting badly to the treatment. It follows news that he has been suffering from fits as a result of physical abuse.

After his sentencing in 2008, Gambira was shackled and handcuffed for about a month, with a bag often placed over his head while he was beaten.

Now the revered monk, who played a pivotal role in the September 2007 uprising, is experiencing regular migraines. Khin Thu Htay believes he is being injected with sedatives so strong that they have affected his mental faculties.

“We sent a letter to the president requesting that they immediately stop injecting him with drugs … and to release him so he can get medical treatment from specialist doctors,” she told DVB.

Also cause for concern is the former army captain Nay Myo Zin, who is serving a 10-year sentence in Rangoon’s Insein prison on charges of subversion stemming from articles he published that allegedly defamed the Burmese military.

When his wife visited him last Thursday he was brought out from the prison hospital on a stretcher after severe back pain rendered him unable to walk.

“He’s still at the prison hospital and is suffering from back pain – he had fracture on his pelvic bone [after a fall] and is unable to move a lot,” said Zin Myo Maw. “He said he had some intense pain [but] he’s not yet been approved for treatment outside of the prison.”

A visiting doctor reportedly told the 36-year-old, who after leaving the army turned his attention to charity work, that he might need surgery. The Insein prison hospital is unequipped to carry out such a procedure.

Torture of political prisoners in Burma is common, particularly during the early phase of their sentences when hefty interrogation procedures are used.

Nay Myo Zin carries the distinction of being the first political prisoner of the new government following his sentencing in August, five months after the Thein Sein administration came to power.

Additional reporting by Aye Nai

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