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Burmese democracy activist may face blindness

April 30, 2008

Leading Burmese democracy activist Min Ko Naing is suffering from a serious eye infection and may go blind as a result of being denied medical treatment in Insein Prison.

Min Ko Naing and some of his closest friends publicly re-established the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) in 1988. Min Ko Naing was elected unanimously as Chairman of the union. The student union was one of the driving forces behind the 8888 Uprising, during which millions of people marched on the streets, protesting against the junta and calling for democracy. The military regime, now known as the State Peace and Development Council, responded to the uprising with brutal force, killing at least 3,000 civilians, including students and Buddhist monks. In the aftermath of the 8888 Uprising, hundreds of democracy activists were killed or imprisoned. Min Ko Naing was arrested in 1989 and spent more than 16 years in prison.

Where torture is routine

In 2001, while still in prison, Min Ko Naing was awarded the Student peace prize for his work in the ABFSU. He was finally released in 2004, but in August 2007, he was arrested for leading protests in Rangoon. Since then, he has been held in Rangoon’s notorious Insein Prison where torture is routine. According to the Burma Campaign UK, Min Ko Naing is now suffering from a serious eye infection and may go blind because he is denied medical treatment. Alas, this is nothing out of the ordinary in Burma. Political prisoners are singled out for brutal treatment, including the denial of medical treatment.

As former chairman of the ABFSU and one of the 8888 veterans, Min Ko Naing has been one of the most prominent democracy activists in Burma for two decades. He has become a very important symbol for the Burmese pro-democracy movement, and it would be a hard blow for the entire Burmese people as well as a personal tragedy for Min Ko Naing if he should lose his eyesight.

Min Ko Naing and other Burmese democracy activists need all the support they can get. Please take the time to send an email to urge the Burmese authorities to allow immediate medical attention to Min Ko Naing and all political prisoners.

UPDATE: Min Ko Naing was released during a prisoner amnesty on 13. January 2012, according to the BBC.

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