UPDATE (Burma): Human rights defender jailed for second time


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-019-2010
ISSUES: Administration of justice, Judicial system, Military, Rule of law, State of emergency & martial law,

Dear friends, 

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) regrets to inform you that, as anticipated, a human rights defender in Burma was imprisoned again last week. She was originally jailed because of complaints she made against local officials and has now been imprisoned with her husband under the same charges, after appearing before the same judge as the previous case. 


As the AHRC wrote in February (UAU-007-2010) Ma Sandar and her husband were targeted with new fraudulent legal action in November 2009 in response to their complaints about the lack of treatment for an accident victim at a township hospital. The charges against Ma Sandar and her husband Ko Zaw Min Htun were the same as those that were brought against her previously, when she had complained about local authorities’ corruption. The judge also was the same as before. 

In April the AHRC addressed an open letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on this case (OLT-003-2010). Unfortunately, as expected, on 7 May 2010 the township court found Ma Sandar and Zaw Min Htun guilty and sentenced them to one-and-a-half and one year’s imprisonment respectively. After the verdict was read the two were immediately sent to the central prison. 

Ma Sandar is reportedly in bad health and unable to eat rice. 

Further details are available in the modified sample letter, below. Details of the previous case against Ma Sandar are available online at: UAC-235-2008. 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/. 



Please write to the persons listed below to call for the release of Ma Sandar and her husband. 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 and the 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: Conviction of human rights defender from case based on hearsay 

Details of accused: 
1. Ma Sandar, residing in Kanthayar 10th Street, Kyundaw Ward, Twante, Yangon Division, Myanmar, sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment 
2. Ko Zaw Min Htun, husband of Ma Sandar, residing in Kanthayar 10th Street, Kyundaw Ward, Twante, Yangon Division, Myanmar, sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment 
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 criminal force to obstruct a public servant, Criminal Case No. 651/2009, Twante Township Court, Judge Aye Ko Ko (Special) (Judge No. 1828) presiding 
Date of the verdict: 7 May 2010 

I am writing to you to appeal for the release of a human rights defender and her husband from imprisonment 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, injuring the arm of a 21-year-old woman named Ma Hla Yeit Choe (a.k.a. Thida Win), a resident of Twante. Although the injury could have been tended at a private clinic, the young woman needed a police medical record for legal purposes. She 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 requested 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 the money was given the nurses then allegedly demanded another 6,000 Kyat for medicine, yet failed to either to treat the young woman or do an x-ray. When the patient would not pay again the nurses allegedly said that they wouldn’t offer treatment the woman and that the two woman should therefore leave the premises. On visiting the victim Ma Sandar and her husband 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 for their alleged interference in the workings of the hospital. He claimed that they had verbally abused and threatened the staff. A criminal case was opened in the township court and in preliminary hearings during December the story was expanded. It now related an incident involving a group of people who had allegedly berated staff, and alleged that Ma Sandar and her husband 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 alleged that Zaw Min Htun was drunk; he reportedly suffers from a stomach ailment that prevents him from drinking alcohol. The apparent fabrication of this complaint appears to have been motivated by the local authorities’ vendetta against Ma Sandar. 

It should be noted that the on-duty doctor, Dr. Hsint Hsint Thi, was (by her own admission) not at the hospital either when Ma Hla Yeit Choe arrived or when Ma Sandar and her husband came. She was working during her duty hours 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. She has also admitted that money is sometimes taken from patients to pay for the costs of running the generator. In this case she could not say if money was requested for either the generator or medicine because she was not present when it was asked for. 

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

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 alleged 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 deeply regret to learn that on 7 May 2010 the Twante Township Court found the two accused guilty and sentenced them to one-and-a-half years and one year in jail respectively. I urge that the responsible authorities take the necessary action to see that they are released from imprisonment without undue delay. I also take this opportunity to call for the International Committee of the Red Cross to be given access to all detention facilities in Myanmar in accordance with its international mandate. 

Finally, I am 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: even pregnant women in danger of miscarriage have reportedly been told to pay large sums or go elsewhere, and staff at the hospital have been accused of selling hospital supplies outside of the premises. 

The only positive consequence of this frivolous, vengeful case against Ma Sandar and Ko Zaw Min Htun is the much-needed attention it has given to corrupt practices of the medical system in Myanmar, and those of the Twante Township medical service in particular. 

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. 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@ahrc.asia

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : AHRC-UAU-019-2010
Countries : Burma (Myanmar),
Campaigns : Free Ma Sandar
Issues : Administration of justice, Judicial system, Military, Rule of law, State of emergency & martial law,