Thursday, January 22, 2009

Doctors behind Bars

To: International Medical Associations
Dear Sir/Madam,

We would be very grateful if you would support the campaign for freedom and democracy in Burma (Myanmar) by calling for the immediate healthcare access and release of jailed medical doctors and professionals, and all other political prisoners of conscience in Burma.

Burma is ruled by one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world; a dictatorship charged by the United Nations with " crime against humanity " for its systematic abuses of human rights in various forms.

It spends half of its annual national budget on the military while the population goes without access to proper healthcare, education and food. One in ten babies dies because of malnutrition before their fifth birthday. HIV and AIDS epidemic is out of control nation-wide.

In terms of democratisation process in Burma, the National League for Democracy (NLD) won the 1990 general election, which was arranged by the military junta, with a landslide victory. The NLD party is led by Nobel Peace laureate, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who herself is under house arrest for more than ten years during the past two decades till date. The regime refused to acknowledge the election results and hand over the administrative power to the NLD – instead, unleashed a new wave of oppression. There are more than one thousand political prisoners, and many have been routinely tortured and deprived of basic needs.

As far as things are concerned, there are five medical doctors in Burmese prisons serving lengthy sentences for their involvement in the process of democratisation. Although they are prisoners of conscience and they themselves are doctors, proper healthcare is denied and the ICRC regular prison visits are banned – all these combined makes their lives more difficult than ever.

We particularly like to highlight the plights of the followings:

Dr Zaw Myint Maung, age (56), Amarapura MP
Arrested in 1990 and sentenced to 25 years, still in Myitkyina prison.

Dr Win Aung, NLD Chairman of Khin-U Township
Arrested in 2005, sentenced to 10 years, now in Insein prison.

Apart from the above well-known doctors, there are many medical professionals still serving long-term sentences without receiving proper medical treatment and media attention.

Based on these inhumane acts by the Burmese military regime, we would like to make an urgent request to International Medical Associations to send a letter of concern to the authorities in Burma, Myanmar Medical Association and Myanmar Embassy (London) calling for the release of all prisoners of conscience, including the detained medical professionals.


doctors from Burma

My Prison Life with U Win Tin

My Prison Life with U Win Tin
By ZIN LINN Sunday, April 8, 2001


My name is Zin Linn (a.k.a.) Htay Aung. I am an editor and writer by profession. I was sentenced to two years in the aftermath of being a student unionist and activist in Rangoon during my student years in the 1960s. I served my prison term in the notorious Insein jail from 1982 to 1984. So I know very well about the military dictators' hellish dungeons.

In August 1988 I participated in the old Students' Union Association and protested against the dirty Burma Socialist Programme Party (BSPP) regime. In 1989, I became an Executive Committee member of the Thingangyun Township branch of the National League for Democracy (NLD). Then I became an in-charge of the Rangoon Division NLD office. In 1990, I was assigned as the chairman of the Thingangyun township election campaign committee for the NLD candidate. After the election, the junta refused to acknowledge the NLD's victory, but I continued my political activities. I had contact with the All Burma Students Democratic Front's (ABSDF) Underground (UG) unit. Then I took o­n a clandestine duty to distribute the works of the National Coalition Government of Union of Burma (NCGUB) and the Democratic Alliance of Burma (DAB). As a result, I was arrested by the secret police o­n August 2, 1991 and sentenced to seven years by Military Court No.2. I was put into solitary confinement in the deadly Insein prison for the second round.

There I met Saya U Win Tin, the most valiant journalist in Burma. He is also an outstanding writer and critic. And he is o­ne of the founding members of the NLD. He was arrested o­n July 4, 1989 and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment without valid evidence that he did anything against the law. The military regime put him in jail not because of any unlawful activity, but because he was an important consultant to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the NLD.

U Win Tin and I were put in the same building—Cellblock No.3. He was in Cell 2 alone. I was in Cell 9 with Dr. Zaw Myint Maung (MP for Amarapura) and Dr. Myint Naing (MP for Kantbalu). We got a chance to meet each other when the warden let the prisoners of conscience have a bath. If the warden was a good-natured o­ne, we could have a chat for around 10 minutes. We often had a chance to exchange our opinions. U Win Tin occasionally told me of his experiences with the military intelligence personnel. The military agents came to see U Win Tin intermittently. They took him to their office in the jail and interrogated him o­n a lot of issues. They often tried to persuade him to join the junta. But U Win Tin always rejected their offer.

U Win Tin told me about an incident with the junta's men. "It happened in 1991," he said. "They took me out of my cell to an exhibition 'The Real Story under the Big Waves and Strong Winds' held at Envoy Hall o­n U Wizara Road in Rangoon. The aim of the exhibition was to denounce the 1988 uprising as a riot created by destructive elements and terrorists," said U Win Tin. He told me that there was a big character poster at the entrance of the show saying, "Only when the Tatmadaw [military] is strong, will the nation be strong." There were many galleries in the show. Each gallery highlighted the role of the army and emphasized that it was the o­nly force that could safeguard the country. The show also described the junta's discrimination against the role of the democratic institutions and societies. "Sovereign power is o­nly deserved by the generals. That's the final conclusion," said U Win Tin.

After witnessing the show, the junta's agents asked U Win Tin how he felt about the exhibition and inquired if he would like to join the junta. They gave him some paper and a pen and told him to write down his opinion about the show. "I wrote down my criticism. I used 25 sheets of paper. It was a blunt comment. I made my commentary in a sense of sincerity and openness. But it irritated them severely," he told me later.

First, he criticized the slogan, "Only when the army is strong will the country be strong." "It's the logic of the generals to consolidate militarism in Burma," he explained to me later. "Their logic tells us that they are more important than the people and they expose themselves as power mongers. That means they neglect the people caught in the poverty trap." Thus he wrote: "The slogan tells us that Burma is going against a policy of peace and prosperity."

He went o­n to explain his understanding of the role of the army. He said, "The real thing is that the military comes out of the womb of the people. Thus, the slogan must be like this: 'The people are the o­nly parents of the military.' Anyone who does not care about his own parents is a rogue," he pointed out to the generals. He also emphasized that if the generals really loved peace and wanted prosperity for the nation, they needed to sincerely reflect o­n their limitations. The generals might want what's best for the country, but they did not know how to handle the whole situation. They are used to mismanagement. "Eventually, I came straight to the point: The army must go back to the barracks. That will make everything better in Burma," he said to me plainly.

The junta was very displeased with his criticism and accused him of advising Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to defy the junta. Then, they made another lawsuit against him. The junta increased U Win Tin's sentence by 10 more years. They put him alone in his cell. The cell was 8.5 x 11.5 feet. There was o­nly a bamboo mat o­n the concrete floor. Sleeping, eating, walking and cleaning the bowels were done in the very same place. He could not see the sun, the moon or the stars. He was intentionally barred from breathing fresh air, tasting nourishing food and drinking a drop of fresh water. The worst thing was to stay lonely in such a cage for years. That might cause anyone to have a nervous breakdown. There are many political prisoners who suffer from mental illness. In such conditions, a 72-year-old journalist has to face a lot of hardship and difficulties. The authorities created an atmosphere of persecution to pressure the writer's spirit to bow down. But it was in vain. U Win Tin would not alter his beliefs to escape this severe hardship.

Due to his blunt commentary, the junta seized the apartment he owned in Rangoon. Moreover, they did not take care of his health. The director of the Defense Services Intelligence, Col. Than Tun, o­nce came to see U Win Tin and U Tin Htut (now in Australia) in Insein jail. I remember that it was in March 1995. At that time, U Win Tin was not healthy. When he met Col. Than Tun, U Win Tin was wearing a surgical collar as he was suffering from spondylitis. He also had a hernia problem. He always had to use o­ne of his hands to lift his hernia. Besides this, he had already suffered from a stroke twice, and his eyes and teeth were in bad condition. The authorities neglected to arrange a general medical check-up.

Actually, Col. Than Tun came to U Win Tin to test his morale and soften his firmness. But U Win Tin remained unbowed. However, the colonel ordered his men to hospitalize the old journalist. The surgeons, who managed to operate o­n his hernia, said that the action was late by three years. Due to strangulation, the surgeons decided to remove o­ne of his testicles. After the operation the doctors apologized to the famous writer for failing to save it. So he lost a testicle because the authorities did not take care of a dissident.

When they sent U Win Tin back to his cell, we, the NLD members, had already decided to gather some data o­n human rights abuses in prisons. We intended to submit a human rights report to the United Nations Golden Jubilee Assembly. We sent a letter of notification to fellow prisoners of conscience, inviting them to participate in the movement. There were over 300 inmates in the cell compound. We organized some wardens to assist us in our activities. Because of the influence of the great 1988 uprising, some wardens sympathized and helped us a lot.

Fellow prisoners from political parties and student organizations were actively involved in collecting data o­n human rights abuses. After collecting the data, Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, Dr. Myint Naing and I wrote a draft. When U Win Tin came back from the hospital all of us agreed to ask him to edit the report. In fact, it was time for him to rest because of his surgery, but there was no o­ne else who could do the editing. The workload was so overwhelming that he got extremely exhausted. The task was not o­nly heavy, but also dangerous. He had to stay in a corner of his cell all the time while finalizing the report. He had to keep his eyes and ears open at all times because of the guards intermittently patrolling the cells. It was a blessing that he came back from the hospital to help us prepare the report. The luckiest thing was that most wardens respected U Win Tin and did not want to disturb him.

U Win Tin is a staunch fighter for democracy. Before he finalized the report, he took the duty of writing reviews o­n the current political situation. He regularly delivered them to his fellow prisoners. And he welcomed everybody's comments o­n his opinions. Young students eagerly asked him about politics, economics, history, philosophy, literature and so o­n, writing their questions o­n plastic sheets with old nails. He replied to them daily without taking time to rest. Using plastic sheet that were o­nce packing bags, he was always pleased to exchange his opinions with younger prisoners.

U Win Tin often said to us: "The nature of the dictators is that they want to wash our brains. To reverse this situation, we must be industrious to build up our brains with knowledge and ideas. They want to empty our brains. We shouldn't accept their aims. o­n the contrary, we have to build up our unity and assist each other. Unity alone can overcome the junta's brainwashing method.

"If we do not try to get messages and ideas from the outside world, we cannot understand the present situation," he continued. "Then we can't prepare well for the struggles ahead. That will lead us and our country into an age of darkness."

It was in first week of July 1995 that U Win Tin finished the final report. It went around among the fellow prisoners of conscience. They gave their consent to the human rights report by contributing their signatures. About 115 prisoners signed the petition. The rest could not give their signatures because of security concerns. We sent the final report with the signatures to Myo Myint Nyein, a fellow prisoner in Cell 17 of Cellblock No. 4 (Long). He was also an editor of the Pe-Phu-Hlwar magazine. He arranged for the assistance of a reliable warden. o­n July 15, 1995, the report, entitled "Human Rights Abuses in the Junta's Prisons", together with the petition, was successfully smuggled out through outside links. Within weeks, they were sent to Mr. Yozo Yokota, the UN Special Rapporteur for Burma, and it was eventually exposed to the international community. The release of both the report and the petition hurt the junta and made the generals extremely angry.

I would like to tell you about another important activity in our prison life. o­ne of them was a fight for prisoners' rights, including the right to read books and listen to the radio. U Win Tin was the first prisoner of conscience who demanded these rights. Then others followed him. The authorities delayed any response. Time was running out and we had zero tolerance for this situation. Then U Win Tin suggested to us that we should strive to fight for these rights until the authorities allowed us our needs. Finally, we succeeded.

We received Time and Newsweek magazines by smuggling them in. Jimmy (a.k.a.) Kyaw Min Yu, o­ne of our Media Committee Team members, managed to get a pocket-sized radio. Jimmy (of the Democratic Party for a New Society) and Myat Tun (NLD) were in Cell 8 of Cellblock No. 3. They listened to the radio with earphones at night and noted down the news from BBC, VOA and other radio stations. Then they sent the notes to Myo Myint Nyein in Cell 17 of Cellblock No. 4 (Long). Kyi Pe Kyaw (ABSDF) and Khin Maung Phu (a.k.a.) Tukky (of the Karen National Union) were with Myo Myint Nyein. They turned the notes into a weekly news bulletin.

There were six cell compounds and over 300 inmates. Through the help of wardens who sympathized with us, the news bulletin went around among the prisoners of conscience. Moreover, the students in Cellblock No 4 (Long) brought out a magazine called "Diamond Jubilee National Day Annual Issue" and the students in No 4 (Long) also made "The New Blood Wave," an annual magazine as a commemoration to Phone Maw, the first fallen student in 1988. o­nly a single, handwritten copy of each issue was produced and circulated among political prisoners, with great care and at even greater risk to those who contributed their energies.

I myself was o­n the editorial staff of Cellblock No 3. We managed to bring out a monthly magazine named "The Tidal Wave" and another commemorating the 50th birthday of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, called "The Democracy Mothers' Day Magazine". In every issue, U Win Tin contributed articles o­n current political questions as well as the contemporary history of Burmese political science. Everybody in the cells was eager to read his articles.

While we were struggling in our own way, the authorities were trying to uncover our secret activities and identify the responsible prisoners, especially those who took a leadership role in smuggling out the human rights report. They searched for our Achilles' heel, and at last they found it. Tin Win, o­ne of our fellow inmates and a former army sergeant, who was serving a sentence of more than 50 years, was very depressed and wanted to appeal for release. The authorities enticed him to join the secret agents in the prison so that he could be released. In short, Tin Win became a collaborator and the whole network fell into the hand of secret agents.

At midnight o­n September 11, 1995, the authorities raided the prison’s cell compounds for a surprise search. They dug up the concrete floors and found some underground casings, in which there were books, papers, pens, colored pencils, two radios, news bulletins and other small tools. Sixty-three inmates were arrested, handcuffed and put into solitary confinement. Eight inmates were sent to the hellish "dog cell." They were: U Win Tin, Dr Zaw Myint Maung, Dr Myint Naing, Dr Khin Zaw Win (a former UN staffer), U Nine Nine (NLD MP for Pazundaung, NLD), Myo Myint Nyein (a member of the NLD’s information staff), Ko Tun Win (of the Arakan Communist Party) and me.

The secret agents interrogated us all day and all night for a week without letting us take a rest. At that time U Win Tin had just been released from the hospital after his hernia surgery. He was also suffering from a stomach disorder. But the authorities ignored this and forced him and the rest of us to sleep o­n the concrete floor without drinking water for two full days. Food was just some rice and vegetable soup. The worst thing was, none of us were able to clean our bowels. Nor could we bathe for two weeks.

After a nearly two-month investigation, the authorities decided that 37 prisoners deserved charges. Then they split us into two groups to face charges. The first group consisted of 24 prisoners, while the second consisted of 13. But they didn’t file lawsuits against the second group. Instead, the 13 prisoners in the second group were punished according to the jail manual. The first group of 24, including U Win Tin, faced lawsuits. During the trial, eight men in the "dog cell," including U Win Tin, encouraged each other and everyone remained steadfast. Eight of us held Diamond Jubilee National Day and U Win Tin delivered a National Day speech from his cell. He had to shout his speech in order for us to hear. We clapped our hands in praise of his speech and sang the national anthem in chorus.

On March 12, 1995, we celebrated U Win Tin’s birthday, held in the "dog cell." All of us sang and prayed for him. We recalled his words: "The junta put us in the ‘dog cell’ to crush our morale, but by doing so our spirits have been hardened and tempered. It is a pity that they don’t even know the law of nature."

I still remember some words from his speech. "A true politician will do his best, wherever he is, whether in parliament or in prison. His duty is to implement the will of his nation," he said. "To consider the nation’s future is the most important duty of all of us, even while we are in prison. The dictators can detain o­nly our bodies, but not our souls."

He added: "True politicians are like gardeners who grow a long-lasting tree. Although he may never have an opportunity to taste the fruit of the tree, he must tend to it for the benefit of future generations."

On March 28, 1996, twenty-four prisoners of conscience received their sentences from a summary court. They didn’t have attorneys to defend them against the charges laid against them. Four were charged under penal code 5(J), which deals with threats to prison security, and penal code 6, which deals with the formation of anti-junta organizations in prison, and were each sentenced to an additional seven years in prison. Among those who were sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment were Dr Zaw Myint Maung, Jimmy, Ko Soe Myint and Ba Myo Thein. Two prisoners of conscience, who received five-year sentences, were Dr Myint Maing and Thet Min Aung. The rest of the 18 got an additional seven years each. They were: U Win Tin, Myo Myint Nyein, Phyo Min Thein, Htay Win Aung (a.k.a.) Pyone Cho, Zaw Min, Zaw Tun, Nyunt Zaw, Myat Tun, Soe Htet Khine, Tun Win, Win Thein, Sein Hlaing, Kyi Pe Kyaw, Aung Myo Tint, Ko Ko Oo (a.k.a.) Bo Bo, Aung Kyaw Oo, Hla Than and Yin Htwe.

After that incident, the authorities tightened up security. They built an extension wall for each cell and covered it with an iron grille. Then another iron-sheet door was placed so that prisoners could not see anything outside their cells. Moreover, the jail authorities refused to give real medical care to prisoners. So the situation of U Win Tin, the 72-year-old journalist, became even more critical.

In 1994, US Congressman Bill Richardson met four political prisoners in Insein jail. U Win Tin was o­ne of them. At that time he suffered from various health problems such as spondylitis, hernia, heart disease, failing eyesight, and urethritis, as well as piles. And it is said that he also had tuberculosis. Each o­ne of us was surprised how that valiant journalist was so tough even with so many health problems. For the junta, U Win Tin is really a rocky mountain. Although they wish to crush that mountain, they could never do it. But as tough as was with his oppressors, his tenderness towards his comrades and his people was boundless. He truly deserves great honor for his sacrifices.

Dr Zaw Myint Maung

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung

Section: Emergency Provision Act 5(E), 122/4,+C866
Sentence: 25+12 Years
Current Location: Myinkyina Prison

Dr Zaw Myint Maung is currently under detention after being arrested for attending meetings in Mandalay in 1990 to form a provisional government. He was charged under Penal Code Article 122(1) and sentenced to 25 years imrisonment. The Election Commission dismissed him from Parliament on 27 November 1991 and banned him from running in future elections.

In March 1996 while in Insein Prison, he and other political prisoners were sentenced to a futher 7 years jail. They were charged under the 1950 Emergency Provision Act, Article 5(E), for producing a magazine marking the 75th anniversary of Rangoon University, and a magazine entitled New Blood Wave.

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung was also found in possession of a letter addressed to the UN Special Rapporteur on Burma, Professor Yozo Yokota, which detailed the situation of political prisoners in Insein Prison. In relation to this second charge, Dr. Zaw Myint Maung was interrogated by MIS officers in prisoners in prison and was tortured and badly beaten.

Dr. Zaw Myin Maung was born on December 11, 1951. He graduated from mandalay Institute of Medicine in 1979. He was in charge of the Yurthitgyi Hospital, Sagaing Division and worked as a Chemistry Lecturer at Mandalay University from 1983-88. He participated in 1988 democracy uprising and later joined the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Suu Kyi. In 1990 general election, he was elected in Amarapura constituency (1).

Birthday greeting from National Academies of Sciences

November 17, 2008

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung
Myit-Kyi-Na Prison
Myit-Kyi-Na, Kachin
Union of Myanmar

Dear Dr. Zaw Myint Maung:

I write you in my capacity as chairman of the Committee on Human Rights of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine to send you our best wishes on the occasion of you 57th birthday. We understand that you are suffering from stomach pain and other ailments. We sincerely hope that you will receive adequate medical treatment for these health problems and that your situation will soon improve. Happy birthday!


Sidney Verba

Eternally recorded 24 political prisoners



Freedom of Expression on Trial in Insein Prison

A group of political prisoners in Insein Prison, the largest prison in Myanmar, were given additional sentences in 1996, while still imprisoned. The authorities sentenced them for attempting to send information about human rights violations to the United Nations and circulating news and writing in prison. They received at least seven further years’ imprisonment in an unfair trial, under a law which effectively criminalizes freedom of expression and opinion, by making it an offence to circulate, or intend to circulate "false news". More than 20 persons were given additional prison terms. Nine are still imprisoned. Aung Kyaw Oo, Ba Myo Thein; Bo Bo aka Ko Ko Oo aka Ko Bo Bo; Kyaw Min Yu, aka Jimmy; Phyo Min Thein; Soe Myint, aka Saya Soe; Tun Win; Win Tin (pictured) and Dr. Zaw Myint Maung were reportedly arrested between 1989 and 1992 and have been sentenced to sentences of at least 20 years’ imprisonment. During prison officials’ investigation they were ill-treated, and many have health problems, exacerbated by their treatment in prison and conditions of detention. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience, imprisoned for their peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release from detention.
The prisoners are reported to have formed committees to gather information on human rights violations in the prison, to circulate news among prisoners, and to prepare special commemorative magazines with articles, poems and cartoons. Prisoners were not allowed access to writing or reading materials, so any such activity had to be carried out in secrecy, and with recourse to alternative writing materials

Defending human rights
Prisoners gathered information on human rights violations in prison, including inadequate access to medical treatment, torture and ill-treatment, and poor conditions. They intended to send this information to the United Nations Secretary General. Prison authorities found the document hidden in the handle of a bucket in a prison cell. Authorities accused Kyaw Min Yu, a 36 year old physics student and student union leader arrested in 1989, of initiating the project to gather information about human rights violations and to send it to the United Nations. Phyo Min Thein, a student leader, admitted at the trial that he had contributed information to the document on human rights violations, and countered authorities’ charges that this was "false", by saying that it represented the truth of his experiences in prison, where he had been held since 1991. U Win Tin, a former editor aged 75, similarly reportedly stated to the court that he did what

"he believed was right..the facts describing the situation with regard to the treatment of prisoners in solitary confinement and other matters, were correct, and were beyond the limits of regulations outlined in the prison manual….the loss of human rights and torture in prison were all genuine and that the prosecution could not prove that these points were inaccurate. "
He also reportedly stated to the court that
"the statement in the letter to the UN that ‘ political prisoners did not receive sufficient medication in prison’ was a true statement, (and). that he himself had not received sufficient medication"

Authorities said that Nyunt Zaw (who reportedly died in prison of heart disease in 1999, at the age of 32) copied the information on an Ajinomoto (a brand of monosodium glutamate flavour powder) plastic bag, to be sent to the UN. Ba Myo Thein, 50, an assistant supervisor in an agricultural office, was accused of signing it.
The prisoners were also charged with writing a message on a prison shirt to the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna in 1993. It reportedly stated "political prisoners welcome the Vienna Conference…the rays of hope for human rights will be brightened in Burma' and that 'we are still under detention in the SLORC prison where no human rights are practised'. The authorities accused Phyo Min Thein of translating the text into English, and Kyaw Min Yu of signing it.
Journalism on Trial
Prisoners were not allowed to read newspapers. However, they arranged for the overseas publication Time, Newsweek, and other newspapers to be smuggled into the prison, and distributed them among themselves. Tun Win, c. 50, and Ko Ko Oo, aka Bo Bo Oo, were accused of smuggling a radio into the prison. At the trial, authorities said that Kyaw Min Yu had asked Nyunt Zaw "who had beautiful handwriting" to transcribe the news from overseas radio stations, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and the Voice of America (VOA). Authorities repeatedly stated at the trial that these radio stations "broadcast false news about Burma" and a law enforcement official testified that "news from the DVB was damaging to the country as it had been fabricated." Kyaw Min Yu, in his defence, stated that radio stations such as the BBC and VOA were "good for the people" and broadcast "only correct and confirmed news". He confirmed that he had written news in a bulletin with transcripts of these broadcasts that was circulated every week in the prison, after his handwriting was found on it, but said that he should not be considered to be guilty of the crime of disseminating false news, because the contents were all "based on true accounts." Ko Ko Oo aka Bo Bo Oo, aka Ko Bo Bo was also charged with contributing to the bulletin, which also included information from Radio Myanmar, and news from relatives visiting the prison. Authorities accused Aung Kyaw Oo, a history student and student union organizer, with distributing it.

Writing on trial

Prisoners also produced two handwritten magazines, with poems, articles, illustrations and cartoons. One commemorated the Diamond Jubilee of Yangon University, and had a crocheted cover, and another called "New Blood Wave" The authorities stated that although this material was hand-written, they were still considered to be magazines or literature, and therefore subject to laws which penalize the circulation of information without approval by the official censor. The court also stated that the content was aimed "at discrediting the state and presenting inaccurate information" and that the magazines’ "content and style of writing in the magazines was "detrimental to the state." U Win Tin was one of the contributors, and is alleged to have written an article entitled "Students, Youth and Human Right," which he later denied writing. Aung Kyaw Oo admitted at trial to writing a poem called "Together with Infinite Strength," and said that if this were a crime and he were convicted of it, the court should rule to grant prisoners the right to reading and writing materials in prison. Phyo Min Thein, Zaw Myint Maung and U Win Tin were accused of writing a poem, and denied the charge – U Win Tin on the basis that he that he was too old to write poetry. A poem alleged to have been written by Zaw Myint Maung was quoted in court:

" Let it be known to
those in the military who hunger for power,
those demonic military,
wishing to build a military nation,
under a military democracy and military politics,
that we shall resist defiantly with the strength of the fighting peacock,
may it be eternally recorded in history!'"
Soe Myint also known as Saya Soe, a veterinary doctor, was charged with and denied writing a song in the New Blood Wave magazine, and Ba Myo Thein was accused of drawing illustrations for the Diamond Jubilee Magazine. Ba Myo Thein stated that the evidence for this charge had not been obtained in accordance with regulations.
Other supposed offences were mentioned at the trial, including taking part in a ceremony to commemorate the deaths in custody of two political prisoners. Zaw Myint Maung reportedly stated in court that the bringing of charges against him was politically motivated, and that he had not carried out any of the acts with which he was charged.
Torture in Interrogation, and poor conditions of detention in dog cells
While they were investigating in order to determine which prisoners had taken part in these activities, authorities held prisoners for up to three months in cells designed for military dogs, without bedding, and in solitary confinement. They were periodically denied food and water, and also refused the right to receive visits from relatives. There is concern that the way in which defendants were treated may have exacerbated their already poor health conditions.
At their trial, U Win Tin stated that evidence presented against him in court was a "confession" extracted from him by torture; Zaw Myint Maung testified that he had been denied water during interrogation, and that authorities had illegally taken a handwriting sample from him and that he had been asked to write a phrase "designed to damage his political dignity". Other defendants testified that they had been tortured or in other ways ill-treated during interrogation, including by being taken hooded from the prison cell, and tortured including by being threatened and beaten by up to six officials.

Unfair Trial and Unfair Legislation

Their trial also did not match international standards for fairness. Prisoners were not granted legal counsel and confessions extracted by torture were allowed as evidence in court.

Defendants sentenced under section 5 [e] of the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, a piece of security legislation, which effectively criminalizes the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and opinion, by allowing authorities to imprison people for either disseminating or intending to disseminate information that is "false". The terms of this legislation go beyond restrictions permissible by authorities on freedom of expression under international law. Its vague terms are open to misinterpretation and abuse, as has been the case in the sentencing of these prisoners, and in previous use of the law to imprison comedians for telling political jokes.
Basic principles of international law on freedom of expression and opinion guarantee the freedom to hold, receive and impart all forms of opinions, ideas and information, and should not be bounded by arbitrary definitions about such opinions’ factual quality. In the trial, authorities maintained that foreign news broadcasts, poems, short stories and other opinions expressed in articles by the prisoners were "false" or incorrect information. The judgement was handed down solely on the basis that authorities considered information collected or disseminated by prisoners – including information about human rights violations, news from overseas broadcasts, poems, articles, cartoons and short stories – to be false information, and also on authorities’ untested consideration that prisoners knew this information to be incorrect.

Poor Health

Win Tin is in a poor state of health, suffering from spondylitis, a heart condition, haemorrhoids, and other ailments. Others of the group who are or have been in poor states of health include: Zaw Myint Maung who has suffered from hepatitis and other health problems; Soe Myint suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Aung Kyaw Oo reportedly has had liver and kidney disease, Bo Bo Oo asthma, Tun Win gout, and Phyo Min Thein has had various health problems. At least one of the prisoners tried with them, Nyunt Zaw, died at 32, reportedly of heart disease in 1999. He had been held in solitary confinement, and is reported not to have had adequate medical treatment. Tun Win, who is held in Thayawaddy Prison and Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, held in Myitkyina Prison, are being held extremely far from their families. Prisoners are dependent on food and medicines to supplement their prison diet, and the time and cost of travel to distant prisoners mean that they receive less support from their families.

Previous sentences

The majority of these prisoners have already served out the sentences for which they were originally incarcerated.

U Win Tin, 75, is serving a total sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment. He was arrested on 4 July1989 on account of his prominence in the political opposition. He is an editor and translator.
Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, 51, a medical doctor and NLD MP elect has been imprisoned since 1990, and was arrested for his alleged participation in discussions about the formation of a parallel government in Mandalay. He was sentenced at a military tribunal with no legal representation, and is believed to be serving a total sentence of 22 years’ imprisonment. He is believed to have been deprived of food and sleep during interrogation in 1990.
Among the prisoners are student activists, who had taken part in student politics. Aung Kyaw Oo, a member of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) has already served his sentence for suspected contact with armed opposition, the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF). He was arrested in 1991 and is reportedly not scheduled to be released until 2010; Kyaw Min Yu (aka Jimmy) was reportedly arrested in1989, and sentenced for his prominent role in student union activism and the opposition political party Democratic Party for a New Society. He is reported to have been sentenced to a total of at least 22 years’ imprisonment and is not scheduled to be released until 2011. Phyo Min Thein was arrested in December 1991 in connection with peaceful demonstrations by students after opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize, and is serving a total sentence of 14 years imprisonment, making him eligible to be released now, with time off for parole.
Ba Myo Thein and Soe Myint, aka Saya Soe, were sentenced for alleged links with the Communist Party of Burma, and have served their sentences already. Soe Myint, a veterinary surgeon is believed to have been also sentenced for composing a song commemorating the election victory of the NLD. He was arrested in 1992 and has reportedly been sentenced to at least 22 years’ imprisonment in total. Ba Myo Thein was arrested in 1991 and is serving a total sentence to at least 19 or 22 years’ imprisonment.
Bo Bo Oo, aka Ko Ko Oo, was sentenced to 19 or 22 years in total, and was arrested in 1991 – it is not known in which connection. Tun Win is reported to have been arrested in connection with activities on behalf of an armed opposition group, and to be serving a sentence to life imprisonment. Amnesty International has no information on the charges against him.

Prison Conditions
While in recent years, following ICRC visits to prisoners, some political prisoners have had access to reading materials, this is not universally applied, and what they may read is restricted. Nor, do prisoners have access to writing materials.

- expressing concern at the imprisonment of Aung Kyaw Oo, Ba Myo Thein; Bo Bo aka Ko Ko Oo; Kyaw Min Yu, aka Jimmy; Phyo Min Thein; Soe Myint, aka Saya Soe; Tun Win; Win Tin and Zaw Myint Maung for peacefully acting in protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and engaging in the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and opinion;
- urging authorities to immediately and unconditionally release them from detention;
- urging authorities to hold prisoners in conditions which meet international standards, including with access to reading and writing materials and all necessary and appropriate medical treatment, in accordance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners
- Urging that authorities act in the spirit of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights Defenders and recognize that everyone has the right
I) to promote and strive for the protection of human rights nationally and internationally, and to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights,
II) to unhindered access to and communication with international bodies with general or special competence to receive and consider communications on matters of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and
III) to obtain, receive and hold information and to publish, impart or disseminate to others views and information on all such rights and freedoms, and to draw public attention to these matters,
- urging authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone against threats, discrimination, and any other penalties, including arbitrary arrest for taking part in such peaceful activities,
- Urging authorities to end the use of security legislation used to imprison these prisoners which subjects rights and freedoms to greater restrictions than necessary under international law,


General Than Shwe
State Peace and Development Council
Ministry of Defence
Dagon Post Office
Yangon, Union of Myanmar

Faxes: + 95 1 652 624
Salutation: Dear General

Lt General Soe Win
Prime Minister
State Peace and Development Council
Ministry of Defence
Dagon Post Office
Yangon, Union of Myanmar
Faxes: + 95 1 652 624
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners ( Burma)
Data - Members of Parliament in prisons Updated December 31, 2008
1 Hlaing Aye U Ohn Maung Pakokku, (2), Magwe 2 yrs & 6 mths 20-Aug-2008 NLD 17-Oct-1942 Kale Pakokku, Magwe
2 Khin Maung Win U Tun Yin Oaktwin (2), Pegu 20 yrs 31-Mar-2006 NLD 28-Oct-1944 Insein Myingyan, Mandalay
3 Khun Tun Oo U Sao Kyar Zon Hsipaw, (1), Shan 93 yrs 3-Nov-2005 SNLD 11-Sep-1943 Puta O Taungyi, Shan
4 Kyaw Khin U Nyunt Taungyi, (1), Shan 14 yrs 8-Apr-2005 NLD 5-May-1939 Taunglaylone Moenhyin, Shan
5 Kyaw Kyaw (Dr.) U Ko Ko Yedashe, (1), Pegu 29 yrs NLD 2-Apr-1951 Taungoo Mandalay
6 Kyaw Maung U Ba Hlaing Mohnyin, (1), Kachin 2 yrs 18-Oct-2007 NLD 7-Feb-1944 Mandalay Mohnyin, Kachin
7 Kyaw Min U Ba Kyaw Buthedaung, Arken 47 yrs 17-Mar-2005 Arken H and D party 1953 Insein Buthedaung, Arken
8 Kyaw San U Lar Mya Taze, (1), Sagain 7 yrs 6-Jun-2005 NLD 17,Jun,32 Insein Sagain
9 Myint Kyi U Tin Aung Katha, Sagaing 2 yrs 18-Oct-2007 NLD 9-Nov-1950 Katha Katha, Sagaing
10 Naing Naing @ Saw Naing naing U Saw Thein Pazundaung, Rangoon 21 yrs 14-Dec-2000 NLD 3-Apr-1942 Insein Kyaikhto, Mon
11 Nyi Pu U Tun Pe Gwa, Arakan Detention NLD 10-Apr-1955 Insein Gwa, Arakan
12 Saw Hlaing U Nathanthee Indaw ,Sagain 12 yrs 26-May-2005 NLD 8-Feb-1956 Katha Indaw, Sagain
13 Than Lwin U San Htwe Madayar, (2), Mandalay Under trial NLD 1938 Mandalay Madayar, Mandalay
14 Tin Min Htut (Dr.) U Tun Kyi Pantanaw,(1), Irrawaddy Detention NLD 24-May-1952 Insein Waw, Pegu
15 Win Myint Aung U Bo Sein Tabayin, (2), Sagaing 3 Yrs & 3 Mths 30-Apr-2008 NLD 23-Sep-1955 Sagaing
16 Zaw Myint Maung (Dr.) U Chit Maung Amarapura, (1), Mandalay 37 yrs 22-Nov-1990 NLD 11-Dec-1951 Myitkyina Mandalay

Treatment Denied To Detained Opposition MP

Treatment Denied To Detained Opposition MP
by Phanida
Monday, 03 March 2008 00:00
Chiang Mai – One of Burma's prominent Members of Parliament Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, who is serving a long imprisonment at Myitkyina prison, is being denied medical treatment despite his deteriorating health condition, family sources said.

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, an elected MP of the 1990 election from Amarapura Township of Mandalay Division, has reportedly suffered from peptic ulcer and piles. However, the sources close to his family said prison authorities have denied medical treatment.

Reportedly, the prison doctor recommended surgical treatment for Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, who has been suffering from peptic ulcer over the last two years and piles since six years ago, but authorities remain careless of his health.

Bo Kyi, Joint Secretary of Thailand based 'Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners - Burma' (AAPPB), said Dr. Zaw Myint Maung's health condition seriously needs a timely surgery.

"He needs surgical treatment. Both the prison doctor and prison authorities have recommended surgical treatment last month. But he has not yet received any. His health condition is deteriorating fast. He can eat only 9 tablespoons during each meal due to his peptic ulcer. He gets serious abdominal pain if he takes more food," he said.

Despite family members' appeal for Dr. Zaw Myint Maung's treatment, the Burmese junta's Northern Military Command Commander Maj. Gen. Ohn Myint reportedly denied permission for treatment, Bo Kyi added.

"It is the obligation of the authorities to give appropriate treatment to all prisoners. They are persecuting the prisoners by not providing medical care especially political prisoners because of hatred and prejudice against them. This should not be done. It is cruel and inhuman treatment towards prisoners," Bo Kyi said.

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung was arrested in November 1990 in connection with a conspiracy to establish a parallel government and charged with high treason and sentenced to 25 years of prison term in April 1991. Later, he was further sentenced to 12 years in prison for illegally submitting a report on human rights violation in prison to the UNHCR High Commissioner.

Currently, he is serving a total prison term of 37 years.

Burma; Free Dr.Zaw Myint Mg!

Burma; Free Dr.Zaw Myint Mg!

by Zin Linn

Burmese political dissident deserves release
By Zin Linn
Column: Burma QuestionPublished: November 07, 2008
Zaw Myint Maung, who has endured 18 years as a prisoner of conscience in Burma.

Bangkok, Thailand — Have you ever imagined what it would be like to be a prisoner of conscience for a few days in the Burmese military junta's infamous Insein prison? The military authorities confine you in an undersized cell, 8.5 by 11.5 feet, with only a bamboo mat on the concrete floor. Sleeping, eating, walking and going to the bathroom are all done in the same place.
You cannot see the sun, the moon or the stars. You are intentionally barred from breathing fresh air, eating nutritious food and drinking pure water. Books, periodicals, radio and television are out of the question. If you get sick, no medical worker will check on you until you have lost consciousness.

Under such harsh conditions, Zaw Myint Maung, an experienced physician who never committed even a small crime, has been languishing in prison for nearly two decades. As a one-time cell mate of his, each moment I think about his situation in the junta's atrocious dungeon, I feel uneasy.

It was 1994, in the cell compound of the infamous Insein Prison. I was in cell No. 10 of cell block No. 3 with Zaw Myint Maung, a healthy and handsome man of short stature with tan skin. He was very kind and helpful not only to inmates, but also to wardens and prison officers, who consulted him in health matters. Because of his calm, warm manner as an experienced medical doctor, the prison staff paid him respect behind the military intelligence officers’ backs.

Hence, he managed to form a medical assistance committee in prison, smuggling medicines and disposable syringes into prison cells. He treated his fellow inmates’ various sicknesses and even did minor surgeries with the help of the wardens who respected him. Many wardens regarded the doctor as their health consultant in those days.

A graduate from the Mandalay Institute of Medicine in 1979, he became head physician of Ywar-thit-kyi District Hospital in Sgaing Division in 1982. He worked in the biochemistry department of the Mandalay Institute of Medicine for eight years. During the 1988 People's Uprising, he was elected secretary of the Mandalay Doctors' Association.

Then he became a member of the National League for Democracy and was later elected as a member of Parliament from Mandalay’s Amarapura township in 1990. After the junta refused to honor the election results, he and some members of Parliament held secret meetings to find a political way out. As a result, Zaw Myint Maung was arrested on Nov. 22 and put on trial for allegedly participating in meetings to form a parallel government. He was charged with treason against the nation and sentenced to 25 years in prison at a military tribunal with no legal representation.

He has been languishing in the junta's hellish prison for 18 years, or one-third of his life. While in Insein Prison, he underwent many interrogations by intelligence officials about his views on the military regime and political dissident Aung San Suu Kyi. The authorities tried to persuade him to collaborate with them, but they could not win over his strong political aspiration of building a democratic Burma. As a staunch supporter of Aung San Suu Kyi, he is on the top of the junta's blacklist.

I remember one noteworthy vision of the doctor. He said, “Democracy is on the march around the world, including Burma. But we need commitment to work selflessly with grassroots people until the day that a free Burma emerges. The struggle for freedom may need more time. But it will not be beyond measure. It’s a war between the just and unjust. The just will prevail at last."

In 1995, fellow political prisoners from various organizations actively worked to collect valid facts and figures on human rights abuses experienced in prison, for a report to be sent to the United Nations on the situation of human rights in Burma. Zaw Myint Maung was one of the coordinators of this effort.

On July 15, 1995, the report, "Human Rights Abuses in the Junta's Prisons," together with a petition of over 100 political prisoners, was successfully smuggled out. Within weeks, the report was sent to Yozo Yokota, the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Burma.

The release of both the report and the petition hurt the junta’s image and made the generals extremely angry. Consequently, the prison cell compound was searched, and many inmates were thrown into dark cells and interrogated while being deprived of food and sleep.

Zaw Myint Maung was one of 24 political prisoners who were given further prison sentences on March 28, 1996, in connection with their circulation of news journals within the prison and their efforts to report human rights violations to the United Nations. The doctor was alleged to have written politically agitating poems and to have signed a petition for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

During the investigation, he and seven others, including U Win Tin, a famous journalist and senior member of the NLD, were held in cells designed for military dogs, made to sleep on concrete floors without bedding during winter and left without food and water.

Maung was held in a dog cell between Nov. 1995 and May 1996. The group of 24 had no attorneys to defend them against the charges they faced. They were charged with threatening prison security and forming anti-junta organizations in prison. The doctor was then sentenced to an additional 12 years’ imprisonment under both charges.

On April 3, 1997, he was transferred to the Myit-kyi-na prison in the state of Kachin, which is in the north of Burma and has extreme weather. Harsh prison conditions are still commonplace in Burmese prisons, and many prisoners suffer from serious mental disorders resulting from long periods of solitary confinement.

Prisoners cannot get essential medical treatment even in Insein Prison, which is the model prison in Burma. Even worse is the fact that when political prisoners face a fatal illness, they will not be hospitalized unless they abandon their dissident beliefs. Hundreds of deaths are due to the authorities' unnecessarily negligence in medical treatment. Currently, there are more than 2,100 political prisoners in Burma, including 18 members of Parliament, 178 female prisoners and 213 Buddhist monks.

The valiant, imprisoned physician has constantly refused to sign a confession promising to abandon his political beliefs as a condition for his release. Zaw Myint Maung is the father of two sons and one daughter. He has not been able to show fatherly love to his children for nearly two decades. He himself has been suffering from hemorrhoids and stomach pain. With his 57th birthday approaching on Dec. 11, the doctor deserves freedom as a birthday present for his contributions to society.

Burma has been called "the world's largest open prison for prisoners of conscience." There are over 2,100 political prisoners still languishing in Burmese prisons, among whom Zaw Myint Maung may be Burma's longest-serving prisoner of conscience.

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." But Zaw Myint Maung has been suffering from torture and three unjust prison sentences for almost 37 years.

It would be great if international NGOs launched a concerted effort to free political prisoners in Burma, since this situation not only involves regional politics, but is also connected with global humanitarianism. For that reason, the United Nations, ASEAN, the European Union and China should consider pressuring the State Peace and Development Council to free all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally