BURMA: Human rights defender allegedly poisoned in cell


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-001-2011
ISSUES: Military, Prison conditions, Right to health,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned about threats to the security and worsening health in prison of Ma Sandar, a human rights defender who was imprisoned on fabricated charges after an argument with doctors. According to the latest information about her case, Ma Sandar has been sent to a remote prison after complaining about conditions at the central prison. She has also alleged that at the prison where she is detained in the far north of the country, she was poisoned during a period of solitary confinement after being accused of causing disorder in the prison. 


We have mentioned in our previous appeal (AHRC-UAU-044-2010

) that Ma Sandar has been transferred to another prison without the knowledge of her relatives. The location of where she was imprisoned was not immediately known at that time. It is learned now that she is actually detained in Putao prison.

In a media interview, Hein Min Latt, the son-in-law of Ma Sandar said that on 15 December 2010 he paid a visit to his mother in law, who is now being held at Putao prison, which is in the northern part of Burma. The prison is notorious for its extremely difficult conditions, especially at this time of year when the weather is cold.

According to Hein Min Latt, Ma Sandar told him that she had been poisoned during her solitary confinement after being accused of causing disorder in the prison. Ma Sandar reportedly told Hein Min Latt that there was a dispute between some prisoners on December 13 during lunchtime, but she was not involved in the quarrel. However, the prison authorities accused her of involvement. She was accused and told to sign a confession after which she was placed in solitary confinement. Ma Sandar went on a hunger strike but continued to drink water. However, shortly after drinking she became sick and believes that pesticide had been added to the water. When she realised this she tried to vomit out as much of the water as she could. Her condition improved after she took some medicine.

In the same interview, Hein Min Latt said that all of the family members are worried about Ma Sandar’s security as well as for her life-threatening illnesses.



For more details and the background to Ma Sandar’s case, please visit the AHRC campaign page: http://www.humanrights.asia/campaigns/free-ma-sandar.

For more information about the current human rights situation in Burma, please see the AHRC 2010 annual report: http://www.humanrights.asia/resources/hrreport/2010/

See also the Asian Legal Resource Centre’s submission to the UN Human Rights Council: http://www.article2.org/mainfile.php/0902/

For all appeals on cases in Burma, go to the AHRC Urgent Appeals homepage and filter for “Burma” or “Myanmar”: http://www.humanrights.asia/news/urgent-appeals



Please write to the persons listed below to call for the immediate investigation into this alleged incident of poisoning calling for action against the perpetrator/s. Please also call for Ma Sandar to be released from prison without delay.

Please be informed that AHRC is writing separate letter to the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, on human rights in Myanmar, and to the UN regional human rights office for Southeast Asia, calling for action on this case.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ___________,


Myanmar: Human rights defender allegedly poisoned in cell 

Name of the victim: Ma Sandar

Alleged perpetrators: Putao prison authorities

Date of incident: 13 December 2010

Place of incident: Putao prison, Kachin State, Northern Myanmar

I am deeply worried about the security of Ma Sandar, a human rights defender being detained in the Putao prison, Kachin State, northern Myanmar, after hearing that she believes that while she was held in solitary confinement pesticide was added to the drinking water she was given.

According to the information that I have received, the poisoning allegedly occurred following a dispute in the prison on 13 December 2010 in which Ma Sandar denies any involvement. However, the prison authorities accused her of trying cause disorder in the prison and told her to sign a confession before putting her into solitary confinement. As she was on a hunger strike she only drank water but became sick soon after drinking. She believes that the water contained pesticides. When she became ill she managed to vomit up much of the water and then take some medicine.

I note that the manner in which Ma Sandar was placed in solitary confinement violates international standards. Under the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, no. 31, “Corporal punishment, punishment by placing in a dark cell, and all cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments shall be completely prohibited as punishments for disciplinary offences.”

In addition to this, I take very seriously her allegations that she was poisoned intentionally. The atrocious conditions in Myanmar prisons are well known around the world, and other prisoners also have alleged that they have been attacked, poisoned and otherwise maltreated while in detention. The particularly harsh conditions of Putao Prison are also widely reported, especially at this time of year when it is bitterly cold.

Not only is Putao Prison notorious for its conditions, it is also so far from Ma Sandar’s family that she receives family visits only once in three months, when they give packages of medicine and supplemental food. These visits are expensive and inconvenient for her family, who fear for Ma Sandar’s health, since the climate in the north is not suitable at all for her health. She is known to be suffering from hepatitis, arthritis of all four limbs and heart disease. All of her family members fear that her health will deteriorate much more while she is detained in that location.

In this respect, I note that under the UN rules on prisoners, cited above, no. 25(1) is that a “medical officer shall have the care of the physical and mental health of the prisoners and should daily see all sick prisoners, all who complain of illness, and any prisoner to whom his attention is specially directed”.

In the recent report of Special Rapporteur on the situation of Myanmar, he has repeatedly reminded the government of its responsibility to ensure the protection and proper treatment and for providing adequate food and medical care appropriate to universally accepted standards and the principles contained in international human rights instruments.

I therefore urge the concerned authorities to investigate this incident of alleged poisoning of Ma Sandar and to take action against anyone identified as a perpetrator. I further urge that Ma Sandar be given proper medical treatment and be transferred back to her hometown, where she will be able to receive the support of family and friends. Finally, above all I urge that she be released without delay, since the case against her was unjustified and her imprisonment, along with that of her husband, without any justification.


Yours sincerely,



1. Maj-Gen. (Retd.) Maung Oo

Minister for Home Affairs

Ministry of Home Affairs

Office No. 10



Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663

Fax: +95 67 412 439

2. Lt-Gen. (Retd.) Thein Sein

Prime Minister

c/o Ministry of Defence



Tel: + 95 1 372 681

Fax: + 95 1 652 624

3. U Aung Toe

Chief Justice

Office of the Supreme Court

Office No. 24



Tel: + 95 67 404 080/ 071/ 078/ 067 or + 95 1 372 145

Fax: + 95 67 404 059

4. U Aye Maung

Attorney General

Office of the Attorney General

Office No. 25



Tel: +95 67 404 088/ 090/ 092/ 094/ 097

Fax: +95 67 404 146/ 106

5. Brig-Gen. Khin Yi

Director General

Myanmar Police Force

Ministry of Home Affairs

Office No. 10



Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663

Fax: +951 549 663 / 549 208

6. U Myat Ko

Secretary of Myanmar Human Rights Group


General Administration Department

Ministry of Home Affairs

Office No. 10



Tel: +95 67 412 079/ 549 393/ 549 663

Fax: +95 67 412 439

E-mail: umyatko@myanmar.com.mm

7. U Kyaw Tint Swe

Representative of Myanmar to the ASEAN

Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights


NEW YORK, N.Y.1005


Tel: +1 212 744 1475 / 744 1279

Fax: +1 212 744 1290

E-mail: myanmarmission@verizon.net


Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme

Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : AHRC-UAU-001-2011
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Campaigns : Free Ma Sandar
Issues : Military, Prison conditions, Right to health,