By ARKAR MOE
One of Burma’s most prominent political prisoners, the satirist Zarganar, is in failing health, according to his family.
Zarganar’s sister-in-law, Ma Nyein, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the popular activist was being denied adequate medical treatment in Myintkyinar Prison, where he is serving a 35-year term of imprisonment. Ma Nyein said he was suffering from jaundice and hypertension.
Zarganar, 48, was sentenced to the long prison term in remote Myintkyinar for his involvement in humanitarian assistance to survivors of Cyclone Nargis in 2008.
Zarganar is one of several political prisoners in ill health, according to Bo Kyi, co-secretary of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Bo Kyi said others included Hkun Htun OO, chairman of the Shan National League for Democracy, Su Su Nway, Hla Myo Naung and Aung Thu.
Bo Kyi said the UN and other international organizations needed to back up their calls for the release of political prisoners with action. “International organizations, including the UN, need to take effective measures,” he said.
“We are very concerned about the health of political prisoners because they do not have medical doctors and hospital care. They should be transferred to prisons located near their families and relatives. If a prisoner is denied medical treatment, that’s murder.”
Convicted political activists are commonly incarcerated in prisons far from their homes, a form of also punishing their families, who have heavy financial and personal hardships in visiting and keeping in touch with their loved ones.
According to human rights groups, the Burmese junta allows political prisoners to meet family members once every four weeks.