Detained AIDS activist Phyu Phyu Thin released in Myanmar

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Phyu Phyu Thin
Image: Voice of America.

HIV/AIDS activist Phyu Phyu Thin has been released from police custody in Myanmar, after being detained more than a month ago.

"I am fine and I will meet my patients tomorrow," Phyu Phyu Thin was quoted as saying in an Associated Press (AP) report today.

A supporter of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Phyu Phyu Thin heads the NLD's volunteer HIV/AIDS relief effort, in which she visits patients' boarding houses and homes and helps them obtain free treatment from international organizations, such as Médecins Sans Frontières.

She has been an outspoken critic of the Burmese military government's handling of HIV/AIDS, saying not enough is being done.

Phyu Phyu Thin was taken from her home by police on May 21, after she had participated in a march calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained leader of the NLD.

She was never charged with a crime, she said. She was released at around 9 p.m. local time last night (0230 GMT) from a detention center in Yangon.

While in detention, Phyu Phyu Thin engaged in a hunger strike, taking only liquids for about a week, which left her very weak.

"I staged the hunger strike demanding to know why we were arrested without charges. I demanded to know on what grounds we were detained and if we were accused of breaking any law," Phyu Phyu Thin told the AP.

The United States Department of State had issued a statement last week, calling on the Myanmar junta to release Phyu Phyu Thin.

While Phyu Phyu Thin was being held, 11 HIV/AIDS patients were detained last month for a few days at a hospital after they had held demonstrations, calling for her release.

"Efforts and pressure by all parties including the international community are always very important for those who have been arrested," Phyu Phyu Thin told the AP.

Phyu Phyu Thin's release follows the release of 51 NLD supporters who also were detained last month in a government crackdown on the NLD's prayer vigils for Suu Kyi.

Phyu Phyu Thin, 36, had previously been detained in 2000, after she and other supporters were bundled away by special police from a rally for Suu Kyi. She and the others were held in Insein prison.

Speaking of the HIV/AIDS situation in the country, Phyu Phyu Thin said in an interview with The Irawaddy before she was detained: "The situation is worse now than ever before”. "I get 40 to 50 new cases a month of people urgently in need of treatment and there’s nowhere for them to go ... there’s too much emphasis on education and not enough on treatment; treatment should come first," she said.