“The Military Regime’s Merciless Act of Making the People Living with HIV/AIDS in Burma Helpless and Homeless Denounced” (click to view PDF)

November 18, 2010
Media Contact: Jennifer Quigley at (202) 234 8022 and (732) 606 7508

(Note: Click here for the Unofficial translation of the local authority letter, original Burmese version of it, and a photo of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi meeting with HIV patients and volunteers.)

(Washington, DC) The U.S. Campaign for Burma (USCB), a Washington D.C.- based organization campaigning for freedom, justice and democracy in the Southeast Asian country of Burma, denounced today the military regime for its threat to drive out the people living with HIV/AIDS from the shelter provided to them by members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. On the night of November 18th, 2010, local regime authorities from No. 18 Block, Dagon Myothit (South) Township in Rangoon summoned U Super (aka) U Htin Aung, a volunteer helping HIV/AIDS patients taking shelter at House No. 376, Kambawza 2nd Street, a house rented by the NLD members specifically to provide a home to HIV/AIDs patients. The local regime official informed him that they will not extend temporary residence permits to any of the over 120 patients in the house when their current permits expire on November 24, 2010. Burma’s democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who was recently released from house arrest, visited the house one day before, on Nov 17, and encouraged and comforted the patients who, like tens of thousands of other HIV infected persons, have been ignored by the military authorities.

“This is a merciless act on the part of the regime, making these poor people homeless and helpless. This also proves that the regime is scared of the popularity of and public support for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. We demand the regime stop mistreating the people”, said Aung Din, Executive Director of USCB.

For many years, these HIV patients have been given shelter at this particular house and have been cared for by a group of NLD members, led by the famous NLD social activist Phyu Phyu Thin. They all travelled from various parts of Burma to Rangoon, to receive ARV medicines free of charge from international NGOs based in Rangoon. Phyu Phyu Thin and her group provide them with a home, help them get medical check-ups and blood transfusions, and bring them to the INGOs to get the vital ARV medicine. They also monitor the patients taking medicine daily and their improvement; provide food and nutrition while they are under their care. According to the regime’s restrictions against travel and movement, they are required to report to local authorities and get a temporary residence permit valid for a week to stay at the house. As long as they stay in the shelter, they are required to apply for an extension of the permit every week. Those who fail to get a permit and fail to report will be punished with imprisonment. The authorities’ current threat to not extend the temporary residence permits mean they are not allowed to stay at that house after November 24, and if they continue to stay there, they will be imprisoned by the regime. Phyu Pyhu Thinn and her volunteers, as well as the owner of the house, will also be charged and imprisoned.

According to official figures by the United Nations, over three hundred thousand people in Burma are infected with HIV/AIDS and thousands of them are dying every year. Among over 75,000 who need ARV medicine, only about 15,000 are receiving it from INGOs and two government hospitals. As the regime has ignored their plight and failed to combat the disease effectively, instead spending over 60% of the national budget on military affairs. This dangerous and killer disease is spreading in the country dramatically. Most of the people living with HIV/AIDS have no choice, but to rely on volunteers and social activists like Phyu Phyu Thin and group to get help.

When Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and two senior leaders of the NLD, U Tin Oo and U Win Tin, visited the house yesterday, thousands of local residents waited for her for hours, welcomed her wholeheartedly and chanted loudly “Be Well Mother Suu”. She cordially met the patients, encouraged and comforted them to stand strong, and promised them that she will try to get more medicine and food for them. Later, she made a short speech to the crowd who were gathering in the street in front of the house. Many people cried as they listened to her speech, in which she appealed to all the people to sympathize with the patients and help them as much as they can. “I want you to help others who are poorer than you. Many people only focus on self-interest. But I want you to have the desire to help and work for others. Such desire has to build up. This is called altruism. I want you to build up”, said Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, according to the report by The Irrawaddy News Agency.

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