Shan leader 'losing hair and weight'

Feb 9, 2010 (DVB), A senior member of the Shan political party that came second in the 1990 Burma elections is reportedly in declining health, five years into a 79-year prison sentence.

Family members of 66-year-old Sai Hla Aung reported the details to the Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD) after visiting him in the remote Kyaukphyu prison in Burma's western Arakan state.

Conditions in Kyaukphyu are said to be poor, and like many prisons in Burma, access to medical assistance is sporadic, and often only achievable through bribes.

The reports coincide with news that National League for Democracy (NLD) member Myo Kyaw Zin and 88 Generation Students' leader Aung Thu, who are serving lengthy sentences in Putao prison in Burma's far-north Kachin state, were tortured and placed in solitary confinement after complaining to authorities that one had been kept in shackles for five weeks.

Sai Hla Aung, along with SNLD chairperson Khun Htun Oo and five others, were arrested in February 2005 after convening a meeting to discuss political transition in Burma. Khun Htun Oo is serving a 93-year sentence.

"[Sai Hla Aung]'s family has left from Kyauk Phyu after hearing that he is in pretty bad health; apparently he is losing hair and his body weight dropped to 120lbs from 160lbs," said Sai Lek, spokesperson for the SNLD. "We heard he is also having sores on his arms and legs."

He added that other detained Shan leaders were also in bad health, including Khun Htun Oo, SNLD secretary Sai Nyunt, and former Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) chief, General Hso Ten, who is serving a 106-year sentence.

He also said that their families were unable to pay regular visits due their detention in remote places, and that insufficient medical assistance in prisons has made the situation worse.

"It would be good if the International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] or doctors were allowed to go into the prisons for medical check-ups." The ICRC was banned from visiting prisoners in Burma in 2005.

"Also the Shan leaders, if they are not to be released soon, should be moved to prisons [with better accessible transportation], such as [Rangoon's] Insein prison."

Meanwhile, the mother of another political inmate in Putao prison, Myo Min Zaw said he has been suffering from respiratory problems, which have led to nose bleeds, and needs medical assistance.

And in other news, three NLD members, Shwe Gyo, Sein Hlaing and Ma Cho, who were recently handed three-year prison terms have been transferred to remote prisons, their families said.

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew and Yee May Aung

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