Newborn dies as pregnant political prisoner is denied timely medical intervention in Insein

The infant son of a 24-year-old woman incarcerated in Yangon’s Insein Prison throughout her pregnancy died after prison authorities failed to bring her to the hospital in time to address severe labour complications, a close friend told Myanmar Now. 

She said that Cherry Bo Kyi Naing, who had carried the baby to term, began experiencing heavy bleeding on the evening of May 20 and had informed prison staff that she urgently needed to be taken to the hospital. The friend explained on June 16 that she was unable to speak to Myanmar Now about the incident until weeks later due to the sensitive nature of communications with political prisoners in Insein.  

“It took three hours to get the authorities’ approval to send her to the hospital, and then it took even longer when they found out that the ambulance was out of fuel,” she said.

She continued that by the time Cherry Bo Kyi Naing had reached the hospital in North Okkalapa Township, it was already “early morning,” at which point doctors determined that she had suffered a placental abruption.

Even though they performed an emergency caesarean section, her son, whose heart rate was low, died minutes later. 

“The child could have lived if Cherry Bo Kyi Naing had gotten medical attention as soon as the placenta had become detached,” the friend said, citing the doctors’ report. 

Photos released by the military last year of Aung Thiha Hein and Cherry Bo Kyi Naing 

She and her husband, Aung Thiha Hein, were arrested in Yangon’s Kamayut Township in September last year, at which time Cherry Bo Kyi Naing was already pregnant. 

Both parents were devastated by the death of their first child, the friend told Myanmar Now.

Aung Thiha Hein, 23, is also detained in Insein and has been handed a death sentence for terrorism charges alongside former National League for Democracy (NLD) parliamentarian Phyo Zayar Thaw, who was named by the junta as the mastermind behind numerous attacks on coup regime targets in Yangon. 

Further details about the alleged connection between Aung Thiha Hein and Phyo Zayar Thaw were not known at the time of reporting. 

Cherry Bo Kyi Naing was sentenced to three years in prison for incitement under Section 505a of the Penal Code in April, according to her friend. 

Myanmar Now tried to contact officers within Insein Prison as well as the director of the junta’s prison department for comment, but all calls went unanswered. 

The junta has banned meetings with the prisoners by outside visitors, including members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“We haven’t had access to places of detention in Myanmar for two years, despite regular attempts to regain humanitarian access,” ICRC Myanmar communications manager Jacqueline Fernandez told Myanmar Now. 

According to sources close to families of political prisoners currently detained in Insein, at least four infants under six months old are currently being held with their mothers in the jail. 

Nearly 11,100 people were detained across the country as of June 17, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, 2,191 of whom were women. It is not known how many are also pregnant. 

Myanmar Now reported in December last year that Insein Prison inmates beaten by staff for engaging in a protest were denied medical treatment for injuries sustained in the crackdown. 

The military has also restricted imprisoned NLD leaders from accessing medical treatment, including Mandalay Region chief minister Zaw Myint Maung, who has leukaemia and has been detained since the February 2021 coup. He has been sentenced by the junta to 26 years in jail on multiple charges. 

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