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Burma 12 September 2002

Journalist Win Tin sent back to prison cell


Win Tin was sent back to Insein Prison on 6 September after spending a month and a half in Rangoon’s general hospital. A doctor at the hospital told the radio station DVB that other reasons apart from his improved health were behind the decision to return him to his cell.


Aye Thar Aung, a political prisoner who was released on 16 August, has given to an interview to radio Democratic Voice of Burma providing news of journalist Win Tin, with whom he had been transferred with two other detainees from prison to the prisoner’s ward of Rangoon Hospital.

He confirmed that Win Tin’s health worsened in July. Win Tin has haemorrhoids, heart problems and high blood pressure. Aye Thar Aung said they had staged their "hospital strike" to protest against the way they were being treated in the hospital, and the conditions, that were "worse than in the prison". He said, "the doors of our little rooms were closed, there was no ventilation and not enough light". In response to their protest, their guards simply said that their complaints had been passed on to their superiors.

He also reported that members of the military secret services took photos of them every day, during their medical examinations, their meals, or while they were sleeping. The military at first said they were taking the photos to publish them on the Internet, then they said they needed them for their archives. The four detainees suspected that the photos would be used for propaganda purposes.


On August 11, four prisoners of opinion, including journalist Win Tin, began a "hospital strike". They asked the authorities to return them to prison from Rangoon Hospital unless they were treated like "normal patients" Win Tin, Aye Thar Aung, Htwe Myint and doctor Than Nyein say that the authorities transferred them from their prison cells to the hospital, but are not providing them with the treatments or operations they need.


According to the Democratic Voice of Burma radio station, Win Tin was transferred to the hospital’s prisoners ward on 27 July. He has been imprisoned for the past 13 years.


Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières - RSF) and the Burma Media Association (BMA) today expressed their grave concern about the sharply deteriorating condition of Win Tin, the 72-year-old Burmese journalist who has been imprisoned for the past 13 years for opposing the country’s military regime.

"We are appalled at the government’s criminal attitude to political prisoners and we now fear the worst for one of the best-known among them," they said in a letter to interior minister Col. Tin Hlaing.  They called for him to be freed immediately and taken to hospital, where they said they would pay the cost of his treatment.

"During his 13 years in jail, the authorities have not shown him the slightest compassion," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard.  "This kind of deliberate negligence has already caused the death of several journalists.  In March, we warned that returning him to prison after several weeks in hospital would put his life in danger."BMA President U Thaung added, "Releasing U Win Tin now could help to improve the image of the military government."

Win Tin’s condition reportedly worsened in early July, with haemorrhoid pains, an old urinary infection and prostate troubles.  He was fairly weak when a doctor saw him in the second week of July. 

He asked the doctor to treat him with the cheapest medicine so as not to be a burden on a friend who had been visiting him for 10 years and who had little money to buy him medicine.  A sympathetic prison guard who was present at the examination told the friend that Win Tim was "a man of steel who never shows any sign of depression."  However, the guard said, "this time, I’m very worried about his health."

Win Tin’s 13 years in jail have been marked by serious illness and shuttling back and forth between prison and hospital.  He has had two heart attacks and a hernia operation and suffers from high blood pressure, diabetes and spinal inflammation.  He was returned to his special cell, room 10, in Rangoon’s Insein prison on 20 May after several months in the city’s general hospital.

Win Tin, Burma’s most famous journalist and a leading opposition member, is serving a total of 21 years in prison on a variety of subversion charges, including anti-government propaganda and telling the United Nations about ill-treatment and other bad prison conditions.

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