UPDATE (Burma): New fraudulent criminal case lodged against released human rights defender


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-007-2010
ISSUES: Administration of justice, Arbitrary arrest & detention, Human rights defenders, Military, State of emergency & martial law,

Dear friends, 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received news that a human rights defender who was released from jail in September is facing a new criminal trial under the same charges. She served more than a year in jail because of complaints she made against local officials, but is facing another trial along with her husband under the same charges and before the same judge as the previous case. 


In our previous appeal on behalf of Ma Sandar (left), the AHRC described how she was imprisoned for one year and one month in August 2008 in a concocted case – revenge for her having made complaints about official corruption. She was released along with many other prisoners last September after having served her sentence, although the military regime in Burma gave the appearance that those released were being let out early due to its goodwill. 

Ma Sandar and her husband have now been made the target of a new fraudulent legal action, seemingly because of her refusal to be complaisant to local authorities. 

The case has been built out of an incident from November 2009, less than two months after Ma Sandar’s release. A young woman known to the couple was involved in a vehicle accident and went to the township hospital in their area of Rangoon for treatment, and to get a police form for legal purposes. At the hospital two nurses allegedly demanded money from her, first for an x-ray and then for medicine to relieve the pain of her injury, and when they didn’t get enough they refused to treat her. When Ma Sandar and her husband arrived at the hospital and saw this they complained to the staff, who allegedly then ejected them all from the premises. 

Although the victim of the accident didn’t get treated or the police medical record that she needed, it was the township medical officer who, two days later, made a complaint. According to him Ma Sandar and her husband verbally abused and threatened the staff, and in court hearings in December he and the duty doctor added that a group of people was involved and that Ma Sandar’s husband was drunk. 

The story is full of holes and errors. The on-duty doctor was, by her own admission, not even at the hospital when the young woman arrived or when Ma Sandar and her husband came; she was on duty at her private clinic in town. The township officer who made the complaint learned about the entire event from this doctor and other staff, and as his complaint is based on hearsay it shouldn’t have been admitted to a court. Ma Sandar’s husband does not drink alcohol due to a medical condition. 

To add insult to injury, the charges against Ma Sandar and her husband are the same as those that were brought against her previously, as if the police were not inventive enough to cook up a new offence. The judge also is the same as before. 

The hearings against Ma Sandar and her husband are ongoing. Full details of the case are given in the sample letter below, as usual. 


Medical malpractice is a hot topic in Burma these days after a teenage girl died due to a misdiagnosis last year and attracted a lot of local media interest. The public hospitals are chronically under-funded and understaffed and complaints of personnel demanding money for services are common. According to speakers on a short-wave radio station following this case, the hospital concerned also has a reputation for denying patients treatment unless they pay up: even pregnant women in danger of miscarriage have reportedly been told to pay large sums or go elsewhere. Staff people at the hospital are also alleged to steal supplies and sell them outside. 

The AHRC has documented a variety of cases of human rights defenders and people perceived by local authorities as troublemakers being targeted for retributive legal actions of this sort. See recent cases of American citizen Kyaw Zaw Lwin (AHRC-UAC-004-2010) and human rights lawyer U Aye Myint (AHRC-UAC-156-2009). 

All urgent appeals on Burma can be accessed by going to the appeals homepage and typing “Burma” or “Myanmar” into the search box: http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/. See also articles and special reports on the article 2 website: http://www.article2.org/search.phpagain search for Burma/Myanmar, and the 2009 annual report on Burma. 

The AHRC Burmese-language blog, Pyithu Hittaing, is updated constantly for Burmese-language readers, and covers the contents of urgent appeal cases, related news, and special analysis pieces. 

For more information on the dysfunctional criminal justice system in Burma, see the new report, “Saffron Revolution imprisoned, law demented”  (PDF) issued by the AHRC’s sister organisation. See also the comprehensive report from 2007: “Burma, political psychosis and legal dementia” (PDF) and the 2007 AHRC Human Rights Report chapter on Burma. 



Please write to the persons listed below to call for the case against Ma Sandar and her husband to be dropped. Please note that for the purpose of the letter, the country should be referred to by its official title of Myanmar, rather than Burma. 

Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteurs on Myanmar, the right to health, and independence of judges and lawyers as well as the UN Special Representative on human rights defenders and the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia, calling for interventions into this case.

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


Dear ___________, 

MYANMAR: Criminal case based on hearsay lodged against human rights defender 

Details of accused: 
Ma Sandar and her husband, Ko Zaw Min Htun, both National League for Democracy (NLD) members, residing in Kanthayar 10th Street, Kyundaw Ward, Twante, Yangon Division, Myanmar 
Primary officials involved: 
1. Dr. Kyu Khaing, Medical Registration No. HsaMa/13420; head of Twante Township Health Department 
2. Dr. Hsint Hsint Thi, Medical Registration No. HsaMa/16407; doctor at Twante Public Hospital 
3. Sub-Inspector Thein Zaw Oo, Detective, Twante Township Police 

Charge and trial:
Charged under sections 353 and 294 of the Penal Code with obscenity and using force to obstruct a public servant, Criminal Case No. 651/2009, Twante Township Court, Judge Aye Ko Ko (Special) (Judge No. 1828) presiding 

I am writing to you to appeal for the immediate dropping of a false case against a human rights defender and her husband in Myanmar. 

According to the information that I have received, the case arose from an incident at around 6:20pm on 12 November 2009 when a jeep and motorcycle crashed, causing a 21-year-old woman named Ma Hla Yeit Choe (a.k.a. Thida Win), a resident of Twante, to suffer an abrasion to her arm. Although the injury could have been tended at a private clinic, for legal purposes the young woman needed a police medical record and went with her sister to the Twante hospital to get treatment and the documentation. 

At the hospital two on-duty nurses, Daw Myo Thuzar and Daw Nila Myint, allegedly demanded 10,000 Kyat (USD 10) from Hla Yeit Choe to pay for the cost of running the electricity generator to do an x-ray. After getting the money the nurses then allegedly demanded another 6000 for medicine and would not treat the young woman or do an x-ray. When they did not get more money, they said that they would not give any treatment and that there was no reason for the sisters to stay on the premises. 

Ma Sandar and her husband learned about the accident and came to visit Hla Yeit Choe at the hospital. When they saw that she had not been treated they complained to the staff, who allegedly then ejected the patient and couple from the hospital. 

On November 14 Dr. Kyu Khaing sent a complaint letter to the police asking for legal action against the couple over their alleged interference in the workings of the hospital. He claimed that they had verbally abused and threatened the staff. After the complaint, a criminal case was opened in the township court. In preliminary hearings during December the story was expanded to include a group of people who had allegedly berated staff, and claimed that the couple had forced Hla Yeit Choe to leave the hospital before getting an x-ray due to the delay caused by no electricity supply. The doctors also alleged that Zaw Min Htun was drunk; however, he reportedly suffers from a stomach ailment that prevents him from drinking alcohol. 

From the information that I have received the complaint appears to be a gross fabrication, likely motivated by a vendetta of local officials against Ma Sandar. The on-duty doctor Dr. Hsint Hsint Thi, by her own admission, was not even at the hospital either when Ma Hla Yeit Choe arrived or when Ma Sandar and her husband came; she was working at her private clinic in town. The complainant, Dr. Kyu Khaing, only arrived at the hospital later. His complaint is based entirely on the hearsay of the duty doctor, who admits to not knowing the full facts of the case. This doctor also admitted that sometimes money is taken from patients to pay for the costs of running the generator, however in this case she could not say if this was true of this incident because she was not present at the time that nurses were alleged to have asked for the money. 

The local officials have also reportedly intimidated the young victim of the car accident to appear as a prosecution witness, or face legal action herself. 

To add to the absurdity of the case, the charges and trial appear to be a reprise of an earlier case that was brought against Ma Sandar in 2008, after she had complained about corruption among officials in the township. The charges are the same, as is the judge. She was released from Myinchan Prison in Mandalay Division in September 2009 after serving her sentence. 

I fear that this case will conclude in a similar way and that after the couple are imprisoned on these concocted charges, their children will be left without either parent. I urge that the responsible authorities take the necessary action to see that this case is withdrawn from court in accordance with section 4(1) of the Attorney General Law 2001. 

I am also aware that this case has come up at a time that medical malpractice is a serious issue in the Myanmar media, and that the Twante hospital has a reputation for denying patients treatment unless they pay money. Bringing this frivolous and vengeful case against Ma Sandar and Ko Zaw Min Htun can only draw further attention to the decrepit and corrupt practices of the medical system in Myanmar, and those of the Twante Township medical department in particular. 

The persons responsible for bringing the case to court should consider the disservice that they are doing the reputation of hospitals, nurses, doctors and government in Myanmar. 

Yours sincerely 



1. Maj-Gen. 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. 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. Dr. Kyaw Myint 
Minister of Health 
Ministry of Health 
Office No. 4 
Tel: +95 67 411 381/ 411 163 / 411 353 
Fax: +95 67 411 004/ 411 016 
Email: dmkm@health.gov.mm 

7. Prof. Kyaw Myint Naing 
Myanmar Medical Association 
249 Theinbyu Road 
Tel: +95 1 278 863/ 380899/ 388 097/ 394 141 
Fax: +95 1 378 863 
Email: mma.org@mptmail.net.mm 

Thank you. 

Urgent Appeals Programme 
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) (ua@ahrchk.org