01/23/2009, 00.00
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Burmese monks and activists mistreated and tortured

Hundreds of people have been recently sentenced to long prison terms for taking part in anti-military junta street protests in September 2007 or helping cyclone Nargis victims in May 2008. Monk Gambira goes on a hunger strike to protest against the conditions of his detention. Prisoners’ relatives complain about their systematic transfer to distant detention centres, the denial of proper food and the overall poor living conditions.
Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) –  Myanmar’s military junta is making political prisoners live in unhealthy living conditions, depriving them of adequate food and medical care and denying their families the right to visit by transferring them to remote prisons, this according to prisoners’ families and pro- rights groups. For the latter the treatment meted out to dissidents is tantamount to torture on people already condemned to tens of years behind bars.

Ashin Gambira (pictured), a Buddhist monk imprisoned for participating in street protests against the junta in August and September 2007 went on a hunger strike ten days ago to demand access to his family. The authorities responded by moving him from Mandalay prison to the remote Hkamti prison three or four days later, said Bo Kyi of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma.

More recently some 270 activists, including monks, student leaders and political activists, were given long jail terms for their roles in the 2007 protests and for helping victims of Cyclone Nargis last May.

At least 136 of them have been transferred to prisons in isolated areas of the country. One student activist was sentenced to 104 years in prison. But such ill-treatment is unusual.

Kathy Aung, for example, was sentenced to 26 years in prison in November. Arrested in September 2008, she now has to endure very poor living conditions, suffers from heart problems, and has become physically weak as a result of malnutrition. Moreover, she has “has not been able to take the medicine she needs for her pregnancy lately,” said her mother Thidar Aung, who was refused permission to visit her daughter in prison last week.

Denying prisoners visiting rights is not rare. Pu Cint Sian Than, leader of the Zomi National Congress, said his son Kyaw Soe (aka Kamlam Koup), now serving 33 years in Myaung Mya prison in Irrawaddy, has not been allowed family visits. Food parcels and other necessities also sent by the family have also been refused.

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