Fears grow over Insein prisoner

A jailed National League for Democracy member is in declining health and struggling to access medical facilities in Rangoon’s Insein prison, where she is serving a 26 year sentence, her niece has said.

Thandar, 40, is suffering from a narrowed artery in her heart and kidney problems.

“She said she had swollen kidney and has to be kept warm with a hot-water bottle,” said the niece. “She lost a lot of weight and … she felt pain in her bones.

“The doctor didn’t come to look at her the previous time but only this time and wrote her a prescription.”

Access to healthcare in Burmese prisons is notoriously difficult. The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners–Burma (AAPP) says that of the nearly 2000 political prisoners in Burma, 164 are currently in poor health. Nearly 150 have died in detention.

The country’s 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.

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 thus have to rely on medicine supplied by visiting family members.

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