Burma Campaign UK today urged the Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire MP to make the unconditional release of U Gambira and all the remaining political prisoners one of his main priorities on his visit to Burma next week.
Despite increasing human rights violations in Burma, the main purpose of Hugo Swire’s visit is to lead a trade mission, not promote human rights. Burma Campaign UK is urging Hugo Swire MP to insist on visiting U Gambira in jail to assess where he is being held and that he has access to medical care and medicines.
U Gambira was arrested on 1st December and is being held in the notorious Insein Prison, awaiting his trial. He has been charged with three different counts, including 427 of Damaging the Dignity of the Country, Section 448 of House Trespassing and Section 454 of Lurking House-trespass or House-breaking in order to Commit Offence Punishable with Imprisonment. (The authorities locked U Gambira out of his own monastery but he went in anyway.)
Since being released, U Gambira has continued to speak about the on-going human rights abuses committed by the military-backed government in Burma, and this is the third time he had been re-arrested after his conditional release in January. He has also been denied permission to obtain a national identity card and passport.
He was badly tortured while he was in interrogation centres and in prison after being arrested for his role in the 2007 uprising. He was sentenced to 68 years in prison and denied medical treatment although his health was deteriorating from torture and mistreatment in prison. He has been suffering from clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder since he was released. He is urgently in need of medical treatment which is not available in Burma, but the government will not allow him to apply for a passport to get treatment abroad. U Gambira’s family members are worried that his life might be in grave danger if he doesn’t receive proper medication which is helping to keep him alive.
Burma Campaign UK is highlighting the case of a different political prisoner every month to draw attention to the hundreds of political prisoners still in jail. The political prisoner for this December is U Gambira.
“I am very worried about my brother’s health as he needs daily medication but those were taken away when he was arrested,” said Aung Kyaw Kyaw, brother of U Gambira. “I hope he will be released as soon as possible and at the moment he is being held together with criminals in Insein Jail. He has been suffering from serious migraine and he should not be denied the medications which are keeping him alive.”
“It was bad enough that President Thein Sein had decided to keep hundreds of political prisoners in jail, selectively releasing them when he wants good publicity,” said Wai Hnin, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. “Now we are seeing released prisoners sent back to jail, and new people being arrested and put on trial for peacefully protesting. Everyone in Burma remembers we have seen this happen before, under Than Shwe and Ne Win. These events are not a just bump in the road of the reform process, they are a sign that Thein Sein’s destination for Burma does not appear to be a genuine democracy.”