Su Su Nway

Human Rights Defender at Risk

Labor activist Su Su Nway is serving a sentence of eight years and six months in a remote prison, far from her family for taking part in anti-government protests.

Su Su Nway, who is a member of the main opposition party National League for Democracy (NLD), took part in protests against rising fuel and commodity prices in August 2007. After this Su Su Nway went into hiding until November 13, 2007, when she was arrested for putting up an anti-government banner near the hotel in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, where the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar was staying.

After her arrest on November 13, 2007, Su Su Nway was tried in the North Yangon District Court. She was sentenced on November 11, 2008 to 12 years and six months in prison. Her sentence was later reduced on appeal to eight years and six months.

She was initially detained in Yangon’s Insein Prison but shortly after her sentencing, she was moved to Kale prison, in the north of the country, some 680 miles from Yangon, and from there to Hkamti prison, in August 2009. Hkamti is one of the most remote prisons in the country. It is in a malarial area, and many prisoners there have contracted it.

Amnesty International considers Su Su Nway to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.

Su Su Nway was convicted under various security laws that the authorities routinely use to punish peaceful political dissent. She was found guilty on two counts under section 505 (b) of the Penal Code, the vague terms of which apply to anyone believed to have intent to cause fear or alarm to the public, or to incite offenses that damage the state of “public tranquility.”

She was also found guilty under section 143 of the Penal Code of similarly vague “Offenses Against the Public Tranquility” and of “assaulting or obstructing a public servant suppressing a riot” (section 152 of the Penal Code).

Su Su Nway suffers from a congenital heart condition and high blood pressure, which are made worse by conditions at the prison where she is held, Hkamti, Sagaing Division where she cannot get proper medical care. The prison is 1,200 miles from her family’s home in Yangon, so it is very difficult for them to visit and bring her necessary food and medicine. Prisoners typically rely on their families to bring them medicine and food, as supplies in prison are completely inadequate.

Su Su Nway had to be hospitalized on 20 March 2009, but since then, according to reliable sources, the prison authorities have not allowed her any medical care. They have also punished her with occasional spells in solitary confinement, and denied her family visits, sufficient food and clean clothes.