The Irrawaddy

Free Clinic for Political Prisoners Closes Temporarily

RANGOON — The Hanthawaddy U Win Tin Foundation clinic, which provides free medical services to former political prisoners, has closed temporarily due to financial constraints, said foundation chairman U Kyaw Aung.

The Hanthawaddy U Win Tin Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by the late prominent journalist U Win Tin in early 2012 with the aim of supporting current and former political prisoners and their family members with access to healthcare, education and rehabilitation.

“We plan to reopen next month but we’re short on medicine. This is the only free clinic for political prisoners, and I don’t want to see it permanently shutdown,” U Kyaw Aung told The Irrawaddy.

In its early days, the foundation funded political prisoners and their families to receive healthcare at Green Cross Hospital in Rangoon. But after the death of U Win Tin in April 2014, the number of donors declined and the financial situation forced the foundation to open its own free clinic in October of the same year.

Since its establishment, the free clinic has provided care to thousands of political prisoners and their families. It receives some 300 patients monthly, and is open six days a week.

“We plan to stay open until September. It will be difficult for us to provide free medicine if there are no donors,” said U Kyaw Aung.

U Win Tin was imprisoned by the military regime for 19 years from 1989 to 2008 for his writings, which were critical of the junta, and his role in the NLD, which he co-founded after the 1988 pro-democracy uprising.

On his release, he wore his blue prison shirt and pledged to wear blue shirts everyday until all political prisoners were released. He continued to do so until his death.

In 2001, U Win Tin was awarded the UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize for his efforts to defend and promote the right to freedom of expression.

This article was translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.