Kachin Political Prisoner Hospitalized Amid Calls For Release

By Lawi Weng 7 April 2017

RANGOON — Lahpai Gam, a 56-year-old Kachin political prisoner, is suffering from serious health problems including a stomach hernia, which may be due to the torture he endured at the time of his arrest in 2012.

Lahpai Gam was working as a herdsman tending cows at the time of his arrest by the Burma Army in June 2012 in Kachin State. He was held incommunicado for almost a month before being transferred to Myitkyina Prison in the state’s capital.

He was reportedly tortured by the military during interrogation. According to his lawyer, Mar Khar, this may be linked to his hospitalization for the past two months.

“I have visited him three times at the hospital,” he told The Irrawaddy. “He was very sick at first but he has got a little better in the last three days.”

Lahpai Gam told his lawyer that internal wounds he suffered during his torture still cause him pain, which, he said, had worsened since the last rainy season.

His family who, along with Lahpai Gam, are from Npawn village in northern Shan State, told the lawyer they are worried about his health and the poor treatment he receives at the prison.

Lahpai Gam’s wife Lashi Lu told The Irrawaddy in 2014 that her husband was tortured repeatedly and forced to engage in a sex act with another male prisoner. In addition to this, his legal team alleged he was beaten with an iron rod and had a bamboo stick rolled up and down his knees.

He was also forced to stand in a Christ like pose and mocked for being a Christian, his legal team alleged.

Amnesty International released a statement on Friday demanding his “immediate and unconditional” release and access to necessary health care.

Suffering from anal bleeding and serious stomach problems, he has received several blood transfusions, according to the statement.

Sources close to him say Lahpai Gam does not fully understand the serious health problems he faces, nor the treatment he requires; raising concerns that he does not have access to adequate medical care.

Lahpai Gam was charged in 2012 with being a member of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) under Article 17(1) of the 1908 Unlawful Association Act and with four counts under the 1908 Explosive Substances Act. He was sentenced to a total of 20 years’ imprisonment.

However, due to insufficient evidence, the Supreme Court overturned the convictions for the Unlawful Association Act and two counts under the Explosive Substances Act.

The two remaining charges under the Explosive Substances Act which relate to bombs that were planted near different bridges in Kachin State were upheld on the basis of a confession letter dated from the time he was tortured and held incommunicado.

Lahpai Gam was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment under these charges, however according to sources, he maintains that he is solely a farmer and not a member of the KIA and has never signed a confession letter nor planted the bombs.

Lahpai Gam and his family fled to an internally displaced people’s camp in Waingmaw Township, Kachin State in 2011 when fighting broke out between the Burma Army and the KIA.