Women imprisoned by Myanmar junta denied treatment for chronic health issues

March 4th, 2022  •  Author:   Ma Su Hlaing Nway , Ma Khin Kay Khaing and Ma Sabal Phyu (Dawei)  •  5 minute read
Featured image

Khin Kay Khine (left) is seen at a military hospital where she was treated for a gunshot wound inflicted by the military before she was sent to prison (Supplied). Su Hlaing Nwe (Supplied)

Female inmates in Dawei Prison in southeastern Myanmar are struggling with untreated health problems related to their kidneys, gallbladder, stomach and reproductive systems

By Myanmar Now

At least three women being held in Dawei Prison in southeastern Myanmar’s Tanintharyi Region are being denied treatment for life threatening health conditions, their families and an advocacy network said.

An officer from the Dawei Political Prisoners Network told Myanmar Now that it has been difficult to obtain updates on the well-being of the 26 women incarcerated in the prison since last year’s coup, including information concerning threats to their health.

“It’s very hard to contact them and they’re living under a lot of restrictions. We can’t find out easily what’s happening in the female wards. They can’t easily contact their families either,” the officer said.

“On top of all that, the warden in the female ward is very strict,” he added, speculating that many of the issues faced by the inmates could be linked to the repressive administration within the prison.

Some 144 men from Dawei have also been sentenced to prison time since the coup, according to a statement released by the political prisoners network.

Most of the men and women imprisoned in the district have been convicted on incitement charges—Sections 505a and 505c of the Penal Code—and of supporting “terrorism,” as is outlined in Section 52a of the Counterterrorism Law. The statutes have frequently been used by the junta to imprison their opponents nationwide.

Su Hlaing Nwe

Twenty-six-year-old Su Hlaing Nwe was arrested in March last year and sentenced to nine years in prison with hard labour on February 24. A family member said that she has an ovarian cyst and struggles with reproductive health issues as a result, and has also developed kidney disease since being detained.

“One of the punishments in prison is to sit in a specified position for long periods of time. Her kidneys started aching after doing that exercise several times,” the relative told Myanmar Now.

The family member said that she was also struggling with low blood oxygen levels related to her reproductive health issues, and decreased mobility in her hands.

Suu Hlaing Nwe was a marketing officer at a Yangon-based company prior to her arrest by the junta, who charged and convicted her of violating Sections 505a and 505c of the Penal Code and 52a of the Counterterrorism Law.

She was accused of participating in combat training by an anti-junta defence force.

Eight other people in their 20s were arrested along with Suu Hlaing Nwe from a Dawei restaurant. They too were sentenced to nine years in prison for the same charges.

Su Hlaing Nwe’s relative told Myanmar Now that the family has consulted with doctors regarding her conditions and symptoms, and it has been recommended that she undergo surgery and access long-term care.

She has reportedly asked that the prison authorities allow her to obtain treatment in a hospital, but the request has not been approved.

“It’s really sad that she was given a long prison sentence, but we’re not asking that they release her. We just want her to get the medical attention that she needs,” the family member said.

Khin Kay Khine 

Another woman detained in the prison and in need of medical care for stomach and gallbladder issues has been identified by the Dawei Political Prisoners Network as 34-year-old Khin Kay Khine. She is serving a seven-year sentence after being convicted of an incitement charge and a counterterrorism charge on February 19.

A network statement released last month described her conditions as being exacerbated by the food given to inmates and the prescribing of inappropriate medications.

Khin Kay Khine comes from Win Ka Phaw village, in Dawei District’s Thayetchaung Township, and was arrested after being shot by the military while she was reportedly feeding chickens.

She was treated for her gunshot wound at a military hospital in Dawei.

The reasons for her arrest are not known.

Phone service to Win Ka Phaw has been cut off by the junta, making it difficult for her to contact her family from prison, the officer from the Dawei Political Prisoners Network said.

Sabei Phyu

Sabei Phyu, another woman incarcerated in Dawei Prison but whose age is not known, has an unidentified lump on her neck and is in need of medical care.

Inmates have sent pleas to the outside asking for medical care for sick women including Sabei Phyu, but the Dawei Political Prisoners’ Network has been unable to obtain further information about her.

A total of 1,590 civilians have been killed by the junta’s armed forces and 12,466 civilians arrested since the coup, according to the statement released by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Myanmar Now was unable to obtain comment from the junta regarding the conditions faced by the three women in Dawei Prison.

Burmese version.

Original Post: Myanmar Now