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Sittwe Bombings: Detained activist suffering ill health, says family

Activist and former political prisoner Naing Soe, pictured outside Sttwe courthouse. (PHOTO: DVB)

Activist Naing Soe, one of four suspects currently detained after a series of bombings last month in Rakhine state capital Sittwe, is suffering from hepatitis and ailments brought on by his incarceration, according to family members.

“We were told that we cannot meet with Naing Soe since he is currently being questioned,” said the detainee’s wife Kay Khaing Win. “He has hepatitis and it has taken a toll on his body. It is beginning to affect his eyesight. We need to get him bailed so he can be treated.”

Naing Soe has not been allowed any family visits since his arrest on 25 February.

“His wife met with him very briefly, just for five minutes, when she took food to the prison for him,” said Chin Ei Naing, Naing Soe’s sister, speaking to DVB. “He told his wife that he had been coerced during interrogation. I am very worried that it has had an impact on his health.”

She said that Naing Soe had suffered liver complications since 2009. Upon request of his family members, a doctor from Sittwe General Hospital visited Naing Soe in prison on Saturday evening, and has since issued a latter recommending he be admitted to the hospital.

A former political prisoner, Naing Soe is also a central committee member with the Arakan National Council (ANC), which is yet to sign a ceasefire agreement with the Burmese government. The ANC issued a statement last month, demanding his immediate release.

One of the bombs that exploded in Sittwe had been planted in the backyard of an outspoken government secretary, Tin Maung Swe, one of the highest-ranking officials in the state administration. Another bomb went off near Sittwe High Court and a third at the city’s land records office.

Speaking to reporters after her brother’s arrest last month, Chit Ei Hlaing said, “Naing Soe is a peace activist. He is a youth activist who advocated for signing the NCA [Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement]. Would such a person, who has been actively involved in the peace process, plant bombs?”