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Around 70 activists appeared in Tharawaddy district court on 16 June for their seventh hearing. They are being tried on charges relating to their involvement in education reform protests earlier this year that culminated in the violent disassembling of a sit-in by police in Letpadan on 10 March.
Several of the accused sought bail, with applications accepted by the court pending approval, amongst them seven students – Than Swe, Ye Win Aung, Min Chit Thu, Wai Yan Min Lwin, Min Thu Shein, Myat Min Maw, Kyaw Zaw Khant and Nyein Kyaw Thu – from Prome [Pyay] University of Distance Learning who had already had their applications denied. The group are next expected to appear in court on 23 June.
Khin Hlaing, who was hospitalised in Rangoon after collapsing and coughing up blood at the previous court appearance on 9 June, also applied for bail, as did Nyein Kyaw Thuwho, a non-student activist who is also seeking bail for health reasons.
“The court today heard the [witness] examination of police official Phone Myint regarding the case of 11 students who have previously been granted bail. The hearing of two defendants in a juvenile trial was also continued,” Hla Myo Myint, a lawyer representing some of the defendants, told DVB.
In attendance at the hearing were parents of some of the activists, who reported that the defendants were mostly in good health, although some were experiencing stomach pain and headaches.
Protest leader Min Thwe Thit told a different story, telling DVB that the incarcerated activists were denied medical assistance, and even when they received treatment in prison, the diagnoses was often wrong.
“The most common conditions among the inmates have been gastric-related and internal injuries. One of the inmates who was beaten on the nape of the neck has gone completely deaf in one ear. Another inmate is suffering from a constant headache and three others have swollen stomachs, and two of them in the past week could only eat boiled rice.”
“We did get treatment in the prison but we cannot know if we are being given the right treatment for our conditions. For example, in the case of Ko Khin Hlaing, the [prison doctors] initially diagnosed him with swelling of the lung but later the [public hospital] found out he had a stomach rapture. It is we who have to suffer the consequences of such wrong treatments.”
Phyo Phyo Aung, the general-secretary of the All-Burma Federation of Student Unions, was handed her Citizen of Burma award by her father as she appeared at the courthouse. He had collected the prize, which aims to honour individuals or organisations who champion social causes in Burma, on her behalf at a ceremony last week.
Around 100 people across Burma are standing trial at Tharawaddy, Insein and Myingyan courts for their involvement in the education protests earlier this year against the widely unpopular National Education Law which, activists say, stifles educational freedom.