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Prisoners living in dire conditions hundreds of miles from families

Mar 18, 2009 (DVB), Family members of political prisoners languishing in jails across Burma have spoken of appalling living conditions and difficulties in visiting relatives held in remote prisons.

Aye Thet, wife of imprisoned Insein township National League for Democracy youth coordinator Htun Htun Naing, said that her husband was denied the food and medicine she brought him.

"They said they had concerns over food hygiene and medicine intoxication for inmates in the prison," she said.

"But look at what they have been feeding the inmates; they are feeding them some random plants from the side of the street without washing them before cooking. That is definitely not hygienic."

Mandalay's Meikhtila prison, where Htun Htun Naing is being held along with five other well-known political prisoners, is run by a government official called Cho Lwin, Aye Thet said.

Win Maung, father of 88 generation student leader Pyone Cho, who is detained in Kawthaung prison in the southernmost part of Burma, said it took him three days by bus to reach his son at a cost of 60000 kyat ($US60). The average monthly wage in Burma is around 30000 kyat ($US30).

"No matter how the government is making our lives more difficult by sending our loved ones to remote prisons that are hard to reach, we still go and visit them, to learn about their situation in those places because they are our loved ones," he said.

In other news, five people detained in Rangoon's Insein prison for helping victims of Cyclone Nargis have been transferred to prisons away from their families, relatives said.

They are National League for Democracy members Ma Cho and Ma Theingi, and Min Thein Tun (also known as Thiha) and two unnamed people.

Ma Cho was transferred to Pyay jail, Ma Theingi to Ma-upin jail, Thiha and the other two to Thayet jail.

Thiha was given a 17-year sentence on 11 March under the Unlawful Associations Act, Electronics Act and Immigration act, after helping coordinate relief efforts over the internet.

His father said that the authorities did not notify him of his son’s transfer.

"I heard rumours and went to investigate and they confirmed he was sent to Thayet jail on 15 March," he said. "I only found out about it afterwards."

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew and Ahunt Phone Myat


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