Published November 23, 2010
YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar's health ministry has ordered the eviction of 82 HIV/AIDS patients from a shelter run by supporters of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi because the center is not hygienic, state media said Wednesday.
An official at the facility said the patients have refused to move, setting the stage for a showdown with authorities who said they must vacate by Thursday.
Local authorities last week ordered the HIV/AIDS victims to leave following a visit by the newly freed Suu Kyi, who promised to help provide badly needed medicine.
Health officials inspected the shelter in July and August and found it unhygienic with patients susceptible to infections because of overcrowding, the state-run Myanma Ahlin newspaper said.
But shelter organizers said authorities simply want to pressure them because of the visit by Suu Kyi, who was freed from more than seven years of house arrest Nov. 13.
Yarzar, one of the center's staff members who uses only one name, admitted the shelter was crowded but said preventive measures were taken against the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis.
Health authorities offered to relocate patients to a state-run HIV/AIDS center, but they refused to move out as their shelter not only offers medical care, food and accommodation but "warmth and affection that no other center can provide," Yarzar said.
Since the patients have decided not to leave, Yarzar said he was ready to face any consequences.
The shelter, which includes a small wooden house and a two-story building of wood and thatch walls, accommodates 82 patients, including young children.
Suu Kyi, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace prize for her nonviolent struggle for democracy, was first arrested in 1989. She has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years.
Suu Kyi led her party, the National League for Democracy, to victory in 1990 elections, but the junta refused to recognize the results.