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The sister of jailed student leader Min Ko Naing says that the influential activist has been on medication for more than two months in his cell in Kengtung prison but remains upbeat.
In an interview following a visit to the prison in Shan state last week, Kyi Kyi Nyunt said that her brother had been suffering from hypertension and a heart complaint, and is taking drugs to settle the bouts of dizziness that accompany the condition.
“He has medical staff on standby in the prison and they actually care for him. He also gets access for outside specialists at times.”
The prominent student leader, who played a pivotal role in organising both the 1988 and 2007 uprisings in Burma, was initially rumoured to be on the list of political prisoners to be released in an amnesty last week. That was however quickly dispelled by his sister.
“Regarding the amnesty, he said that although he was not included, he’s happy for those who were released and their families all the same,” Kyi Kyi Nyunt said.
On the signs of a thaw in relations between the new government and the opposition, Min Ko Naing was somewhat sceptical.
“He said he welcomed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi having discussions with the [government] as it shows that we’re on a path to dialogue, something that he and everyone has been calling for. But he said that in his opinion, there should be a precise time-frame for it and that he will accept [Suu Kyi’s] decision from the discussions.”
Min Ko Naing belongs to the more hardline faction of Burma’s pro-democracy movement, making it unlikely that he will be released anytime soon. The 48-year-old was sentenced to 65 years in jail in November 2008, having been released from a 15-year term only four years earlier.
Kyi Kyi Nyunt was cautious not to speculate on her brother’s feelings, particularly regarding the possibility of Suu Kyi becoming a member of parliament.
“He said he very much worried that people might misunderstand him because I used the wrong vocabulary. He said the thing he worried about the most in over 20 years of detention was that his reputation would be damaged due to wrong interpretations of words.”