BANGKOK—An outspoken Burmese activist says doctors repeatedly ignored his requests for care when he was hospitalized after a severe beating at the hands of government-backed thugs.
Two senior UN officials have expressed deep concern over the April 18 attack on human rights activists in lower Burma, in which witnesses say dozens of thugs set upon them without provocation near Hinthada township, some 100 kms (60 miles) northwest of Rangoon.
Activists Myint Naing and Maung Maung Lay were beaten up at Oakpon village 17 kms (10 miles) from Hinthada, witnesses say. The assault was led by Ko Nyunt Oo, township leader of the junta-backed group blamed for a deadly 2003 attack on a convoy led by opposition leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
We didn't attack anyone…. It happened as we were leaving after a meal. We saw the police there. People from the [government-backed] Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) were there… This was an attempt to assassinate us.
The Taloke Htaw police chief was also present, they said, as thugs attacked the activists with bamboo stakes and slingshots.
“I was examined once at the time of my admission [to hospital on April 18],” Myint Naing, also known as Ko Myint Hlaing, told RFA’s Burmese service.
“But from then until April 20, no physical examination was done. Then on April 20, I had a severe pain in my abdomen, and…the doctor on duty came to examine me. I was seen separately by one doctor only. The doctors making rounds with other patients did not see me.”
“That particular doctor who was assigned to me came daily. But he just asked my name, looked at the chart and walked away. He never did an examination,” Myint Naing said. “I was examined a total of three times during my week in hospital—when I was admitted, when I had severe abdominal pain, and when I was discharged.”
As they were inciting the villagers and interfering in religious affairs, villagers of Otpon Village drove them out of the village, shouting, ‘The arrival of you all amounts to harming the village and sowing discord among villagers.'
New Light of Myanmar
Myint Naing said he had asked to remain at Rangoon General Hospital, but his doctor refused, saying he had no neurological problems and could safely go home. But Myint Naing said he had suffered repeated dizziness and vomiting after the beating, during which his attackers kicked him repeatedly.
Doctors also ignored his request for treatment of open wounds, he said.
“I showed them my slingshot injuries and asked for a local medication. I made repeated requests but they were ignored,” Myint Naing said. “Eventually, a nurse who didn’t have the heart to ignore my condition came and wrote the name of an ointment for my open wounds and my friend bought it from an outside drugstore.”
“One member of the hospital staff broke down after observing the care I received over several days,” he added.
According to Myint Aye, leader of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Network, the attack was unprovoked and aimed at assassinating his team of human rights activists.
“We didn’t attack anyone…. It happened as we were leaving after a meal. We saw the police there. People from the [government-backed] Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) were there… This was an attempt to assassinate us,” Myint Aye said.
Myint Aye said one member of the group working from Taloke Htaw, Ko Thaung Sein, had filed a police complaint at the Taloke Htaw police station.
The USDA also played a key role in the deadly May 2003 attack on pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters at Depayin in Upper Burma. Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo, another National League for Democracy leader, have remained under house arrest since then.
The USDA claims a reported 23 million members nationwide. Public servants, local officials, and even university students have been coerced into joining the organization, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
In a statement, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, and Hina Jilani, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders, voiced “deep concern over the brutal attack.”
Reports of the incident “have highlighted the level of violence and the absence of intervention by the local police to protect the victims and remind us of the circumstances surrounding the tragic incident of Depayin in 2003,” they said.
Government officials couldn’t be reached to comment on the incident, but the junta’s official English-language newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar , blamed the activists for incitement.
On April 17, it said, Myint Aye gathered some 20 villagers to explain “the International Human Rights Declaration…saying that they could make a complaint to them if there was any violation of human rights and they would subsequently file the complaint to the International Human Rights Commission. With that regard, the villagers replied that there was no such complaint nor violation of human rights in the village.”
“As they were unable to create problems over human rights, Myint Aye and his group on 18 April left Ingapo village for Otpon village where they incited the villagers to quarrel over possession of Theinkyaung Monastery...” the paper said.
“As they were inciting the villagers and interfering in religious affairs, villagers of Otpon village drove them out of the village, shouting, ‘The arrival of you all amounts to harming the village and sowing discord among villagers.’” It added that officials were interrogating "those who created riots" and urged the people of Burma to crush "destructive elements."
Original reporting by RFA’s Burmese service. Written in English by Sarah Jackson-Han and edited by Luisetta Mudie.