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Iconic 1988 student leader ‘very ill’

Nov 25, 2009 (DVB), The imprisoned leader of the 88 Generation Students activist group, instrumental in the infamous 1988 uprising in Burma, is in need of immediate medical assistance, his family said.

Min Ko Naing, who is serving a 65-year prison sentence in the remote Kengtung prison in Burma's northeastern Shan state, has high blood pressure, his sister told a National League for Democracy (NLD) party member.

He has been kept in solitary confinement since his transferal in November 2008 to Kengtung prison, 700 miles from Rangoon, whose bleak cells offer little protection against severe winter weather conditions.

"Apparently Min Ko Naing is very ill; he is suffering from hypertension," said NLD member Khin Maung Swe. "His family is worried and they are preparing to bring some medicine to him."

Min Ko Naing's sister yesterday visited the students' leader and founder of the All Burma Federation of Students Union (ABFSU) in Kengtung, where he is serving his second prison sentence. His family is due to pay him a visit next month, his sister said.

His arrest in August 2007 for organizing peaceful protests, a month prior to the September 2007 monk-led uprising in Burma, drew condemnation from the United States' government.

He had already served a 15-year sentence following the 1988 uprising, in which police killed an estimated 3,000 protestors.

Meanwhile, another 88 Generation Students leader, Pyone Cho, who was sentenced along with Min Ko Naing, is suffering from constricted blood vessels, his father Win Aung said. He is serving a 65-year sentence in Kawthaung prison in Tenasserim division, southern Burma.

Doctors are reportedly confident however that he would recover. "He's not in very bad shape," his father said. "I gave him some books and other necessary items."

Win Aung's week-long trip to visit Pyone Cho is typical for families of political prisoners held in remote jails, many of whom struggle to raise funds to visit.

"I think it would've been better if our children are kept in somewhere near to their parents," he said. "But now, the long distance makes it possible to reach to them only in emergency cases."

Healthcare in Burmese jails is rudimentary, with prisoners often forced to pay bribes to receive medical attention.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP), more than 150 activists, journalists and politicians currently held in Burma's 49 prisons are in poor health.

Last month Burma's former foreign minister, 65-year-old Win Aung, who was sentenced following the fall of former premier Khin Nyunt in 2004, died in prison. He was the only former government minister to have served a prison sentence.

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw and Naw Noreen


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