UPDATE: Who is Dr. Salai, Burmese political prisoner?


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-04-2002
ISSUES: Arbitrary arrest & detention, Freedom of expression, Human rights defenders, Torture,

BURMA: Denial of freedom of expression, arbitrary arrest and detention of elderly human rights defender, concern for safety/risk of torture 

Further to our Urgent Appeal of 28 January 2002 regarding the arrest and detention of Dr. Salai Tun Than in Rangoon, Burma, for holding a peaceful one-man protest, we have received additional details of the Professor’s arrest and his distinguished biography. 

Additionally, please note that the professor¡¦s correct name is Dr. Salai Tun Than, not Salai Than Tun as previously stated. It is now also known that he was arrested on 29 November 2001, not in December as earlier reported. 

Please visit www.ahrchk.net to read the original appeal and follow the suggested action. We have also posted his photograph on our website so you can see who you are campaigning for: http://www.ahrchk.net/cms/album/image_detail.php?Id=135 


The Chin Human Rights Organization has reported that the family of Dr. Salai Tun Than was not informed of his arrest and took over two weeks to establish his whereabouts. 

According to Salai Htin Kyaw Than, one of the doctor¡¦s sons living in the United States, Military Intelligence Service officers searched his two homes (in Rangoon and Yezin) and interrogated family members on 29 November, the day of his arrest, but did not explain the reason for their actions. After seeking his whereabouts for two weeks the family finally learnt of his detention in Insein Prison. No visitors have been permitted in the two months since his arrest, however his family has sent medicine for his chronic eye condition via the International Committee of the Red Cross. 


Details of the Professor¡¦s remarkable career have become available. Since the 1950s he has served his country and people with unrelenting effort. He has held numerous official positions and has been lauded for his work. 

Professionally, he has worked variously as an entomologist, lecturer in agriculture and professor in agronomy since the 1950s. Among other things he has served on the Academic Board of the Institute of Agriculture (Burma) and Burma Agriculture Research Council, and chaired the Regional Colleges Technical Agriculture Curriculum Board. He has been awarded the Good Public Servant Conduct Medal and Peaceful and Justifiable Service Medal. He has undertaken study and training tours in the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, the Philippines, India, Thailand and Germany, in conjunction with international agencies and academia. He established the first successful cooperative farm in Burma. 

In addition to his professional undertakings, during the period of unrest at independence (1949-50) he headed the Chin Defence Organisation in Mindon Township, and was later Commanding Officer of the Mandalay University Training Corps (1970-75). He has also served as the President of the Burma Socialist Programme Party youth wing at Yezin Institute of Agriculture and Secretary of the Pyinmana Township branch of the Party. 

In 1993, after his retirement, he established the Myanmar Integrated Rural Development Association (MIRDA) in collaboration with the Mennonite Central Committee, World Council of Churches, DIAKONIE and Swiss Aid for regional development of sustainable agriculture, particularly in hilly areas. However according to a source familiar with the work of MIRDA, it was not given official recognition by the government, in spite of its impressive success. Its work was subject to interference and donors were prevented from visiting its sites. At one point over half of its orchards were destroyed by the military. Dr Salai Tun Than was also prohibited from conducting training programmes through the MIRDA.