Political prisoner denied urgent treatment

A member of the opposition National League for Democracy who is serving a 17-year jail term for his role in the 2007 monk-led uprising has been refused crucial medical treatment for heart disease.

The warning was sounded by the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners–Burma (AAPP), who said that Min Aung had been denied treatment for 11 months.

The 37-year-old is three years into his sentence in the remote Kale prison in Sagaing division. His family lives nearly 800 kilometres away in Arakan state’s Taungup.

“The military regime of Burma routinely sends political prisoners to prisons far away from their families, despite the existence of prisons significantly closer to their homes,” said Bo Kyi, joint secretary of AAPP, in statement.

“This is a strategy employed by the regime to breakdown the resolve of political prisoners by removing the support provided to them by their families. In the case Ko Min Aung it is having a devastating impact on his health.”

According to the prisoner rights group, around 150 political detainees are in poor health. Burma holds nearly 2,200 activists, politicians, lawyers, journalists and monks in prisons across the country, where adequate healthcare is difficult to access.

Bo Kyi said that political prisoners there are “deliberately denied treatment for serious medical problems, many of which are caused and then exacerbated by the conditions of detention”.

The transfer of inmates to remote prisons meant therefore that the crucial lifeline provided by visiting relatives, who often bring with them medicine, was “severed”.

AAPP said last year that Burma had one healthcare professional for every 8000 prisoners. Of the 109 medical staff assigned to prisons and camps across Burma, only 32 of are trained doctors.

The prisoner population is spread over 43 prisons and around 100 labour camps scattered across the country, from the notorious Insein prison in Rangoon, built by the British in 1871, to remote camps along the Burma-China border.

According to official government statistics, Insein prison has around 5000 inmates, although other estimates put the figure closer to 10,000. Mandalay prison holds around 3000. Inmates of remote labour camps and prisons are often subject to harsh weather conditions, particularly in the country’s far north where temperatures in winter drop to near freezing.

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