Letpadan Detainees Facing ‘Life-Threatening’ Illnesses: Report

By Moe Myint 25 January 2016

RANGOON — A coalition of three groups released a report on Monday highlighting the ailing health of 53 student demonstrators and supporters detained since March and urging their “immediate and unconditional” release.

In the report, the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), Justice Trust and the Letpadan Justice Committee said some of the Thayawaddy Prison detainees are suffering from life-threatening medical conditions without access to proper treatment services.

“The poor health of the students is a result of the brutal crackdown at Letpadan [in Pegu Division]. They were kicked, punched, as well as beaten in the face and head with batons,” said ABFSU spokesperson Aung Nay Paing.

The report released Monday said unsanitary conditions at Thayawaddy Prison had contributed to detainees’ deteriorating health.

Protests against Burma’s controversial National Education Law went on for months before police eventually clamped down on demonstrators at Letpadan on March 10 of last year. Of the 127 students initially detained, 53 have since been released. The remaining students have been charged with various sections of Burma’s Penal Code.

Nineteen of the remaining students were granted bail and two were released after they were found to be minors.

Thet Min, the medical practitioner who led the research team for the report, said prison authorities had barred many of the ailing students from being transferred to private hospitals to receive treatment, despite his urging.

Thet Min examined 34 of the remaining 53 detainees for the report and found that some are suffering from gastrointestinal illnesses, chest infections and tuberculosis (TB). He recommended that the student who has contracted TB, in particular, be separated from other detainees to prevent spread of the infectious disease.

Overall, the report stated that some 70 percent of the students who were involved in the Letpadan protests had received internal injuries as a result of the crackdown.

Aung Nay Paing said that, nine months on, only a single witness out of the 49 who have submitted statements in the cases had actually made it to the courthouse.

“It [the trial] can take up to three years,” he said. “These cases shouldn’t lead to imprisonment. We demand that the government drop the case.”

Aung Nay Paing added that the current government should resolve the Letpadan controversy, rather than leave it to the new government when power is transferred in late March.

Khin Khin Htwe, mother of detained student Min Thwe Thit, said she had gone to court hearings several times but that some parents had been unable to attend due in part to financial hurdles.