Eleven HIV/AIDS patient-protestors detained in Myanmar

Friday, June 8, 2007

Myanmar authorities detained 11 HIV/AIDS patients for three days in a Yangon hospital following the group's recent demonstrations calling for the release of detained HIV/AIDS activist Phyu Phyu Thinn.

The patients were being detained at Waybargi Infectious Diseases Hospital on the outskirts of Yangon.

"The patients were given a series of tests and all of them were freed Friday," Yazar, a colleague of Phyu Phyu Thinn and a supporter of the National League for Democracy, was quoted as saying by Associated Press. "Three of the patients were given ARV (anti-retroviral) treatment and all of them were provided with cash to return to their homes in their districts," said Yazar, who like many Myanmar people only has one name.

Phyu Phyu Thinn, 35, a supporter of the NLD, was arrested on May 21 for organizing a prayer campaign for the release of Suu Kyi, the NLD's leader. A prominent HIV/AIDS activist, Phyu Phyu Thinn has suggested HIV/AIDS is far worse in Myanmar than the ruling State Peace and Development Council cares to admit. She runs a small clinic, and has worked to help HIV/AIDS patients through education, counseling, housing and arranging for medical care.

Yazar said the patients were taken from their homes to the hospital on Tuesday after being told they would receive proper treatment.

"The authorities made necessary preparations in advance at the hospital to confine them in isolation as 'political patients'," Myint Thein of the National League for Democracy (NLD) was quoted as saying by Reuters. "These 11 people had been holding prayers at pagodas for the release of Phyu Phyu Thinn since May 23."

Yazar, who like many Myanmar people has only one name, told the Irrawaddy newsmagazine that two HIV/AIDS patients in Yangon died in the days after Phyu Phyu Thinn's arrest. He said she was assisting them obtain medicine, and her arrest might have affected their condition.

In 2005, UNAIDS said HIV/AIDS in Myanmar was "a very serious epidemic," with 360,000 men, women and children, or 1.3 percent of adults, estimated to be infected.

Another activist released

Meanwhile, the junta has released prominent democracy activist Su Su Nway for health reasons.

Su Su Nway was among around 40 demonstrators who were arrested on May 15 during a prayer rally in Yangon, calling for Suu Kyi's release. Su Su Nway became ill after she was taken to jail, and was then taken to hospital. Armed guards had been watching her, but were removed yesterday, according to the NLD.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been under military control since 1962. After a landslide election win by Suu Kyi and the NLD in 1990, the military refused to give up power, and has kept Suu Kyi under house arrest for most of the time since then.