2 Jailed Activists Hospitalized for Letpadan Injuries

By Nobel Zaw 11 June 2015

RANGOON — Three months after a brutal crackdown on student demonstrators in central Burma, two activists have been hospitalized for serious injuries incurred during the chaotic incident.

Khin Hlaing, 26, and Tin Win, 44, were both recently brought to Rangoon General Hospital from Tharrawaddy Prison, where they have been detained since the March 10 crackdown.

The Irrawaddy visited the patients on Thursday after confirming with hospital officials that the pair had been admitted, finding that they are both recovering after receiving long-awaited treatment for their injuries.

Khin Hlaing was hospitalized on Tuesday after he vomited blood and fainted outside the prison as he was about to be transported to a court hearing.

“The doctor told me that my stomach is ripped and my ribs are swollen, so it is difficult for me to breath and they are giving me oxygen,” Khin Hlaing said from his cot in Rangoon General, relating how he was beaten by police batons as the protest site in Letpadan, Pegu Division, was violently dismantled.

“I didn’t have this kind of health problems before,” he said, “it is because I was hit.”

Khin Hlaing said he now has difficulty breathing and can only ingest liquids because of his torn stomach lining.

“I can swallow two spoons of liquid, anything else and I vomit,” he said.

A senior hospital official said she could not immediately comment on the condition of the two patients, but the hospital will make a statement in the near future.

The second patient, Tin Win, was admitted last week and is now recovering from surgery on throat. As he is unable to move or speak, his wife told The Irrawaddy that injuries sustained during the crackdown crushed his esophagus and damaged his nervous system.

“His throat was operated on very deeply because the fifth ring of the bone of the throat was crumbled,” Myint Myint Kyi told The Irrawaddy at her husband’s bedside. “I am very worried about his situation.”

Like Khin Hlaing, Tin Win’s family also attributed his injury to being beaten by police and held in prison without access to adequate treatment. His brother, Nay Zaw Lin, said that Tin Win told them before the operation that the injuries were caused by being beaten with a baton and repeatedly kicked in the ribs.

Khin Hlaing recovers in Rangoon General Hospital on June 11, 2015. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)
Khin Hlaing recovers in Rangoon General Hospital on June 11, 2015. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)
Khin Hlaing recovers in Rangoon General Hospital on June 11, 2015. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Tin Win’s family said that the government covered the costs of his four-hour operation, which came to 5 million kyat (US$4,500).

Both patients are now seeking release on bail so they can recover at home after being discharged, but it is unclear whether their request will be granted. Based on his current condition, Myint Myint Kyi believes that if her husband is denied bail and returned to Tharrawaddy, “there is no return for him,” reciting a common Burmese idiom meaning that he is soon to pass away.

Khin Hlaing said medical access is limited for some 70 students and their supporters still held in Tharrawaddy. When he left prison on Tuesday, he said, there were about eight other detainees suffering from potentially serious ailments such as stomach pain and numbness of limbs.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) and the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) on Thursday cited the cases of Khin Hlaing and Tin Win in an appeal to the government to provide comprehensive healthcare to all political detainees, particularly those being held in Tharrawaddy Prison.