Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Labor Activist Gets Solitary as Prison Conditions Worsen - Su Su Nway

Caption: A security officer tries to arrest Su Su Nway, in blue,
during a Rangoon demonstration in last year's August. (Photo: DVB)

The Irrawaddy News

An imprisoned Burmese labor activist has been put into solitary confinement after requesting medical treatment, according to a human rights advocacy group that is reporting worsening conditions at Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison.

Bo Kyi, joint secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP), told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that Su Su Nway, a prominent labor activist, was put into solitary confinement recently after she asked prison authorities for better medical care.

“She suffers from heart problems and requested regular checkups. But prison officials denied her request and put her into solitary confinement instead,” said Bo Kyi.

According to AAPP, security at Insein Prison, where Su Su Nway and many other political prisoners are being held, has been tightened since an incident two months ago, when Cyclone Nargis blew the roof off of one of the prison buildings. In the ensuing panic, 36 inmates were shot to death by prison guards and riot police.

Since the May 2-3 cyclone, prison authorities have imposed new restrictions, such as refusing to allow relatives of some political prisoners to visit regularly or bring provisions. Walking exercise time has also been reduced from one hour to just 20 minutes a day, according to AAPP.

When asked why the new restrictions were needed, prison authorities said that were being implemented for “security reasons,” said Bo Kyi.

Prison authorities have come down hard on prisoners they deem to be uncooperative.
Two student activists, Nyan Lin Aung, who was arrested in June after taking part in Cyclone Nargis relief efforts, and Maung Maung Latt were recently placed in solitary confinement for arguing with prison wardens, according to AAPP.

Recently, human rights group Amnesty International expressed concern over the health of 79-year-old Win Tin, Burma’s longest-serving prisoner of conscience, who has been in prison since 1989.

Win Tin needs urgent medical attention and has been suffering from severe asthma attacks and lung problems, along with heart disease and spondylitis (inflammation of the joints of the spine), the group said in a July 4 press release.

Human rights groups estimate as many as 1,800 political prisoners are still behind bars in Burma.

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