Opposition Vows to Fight

In Burma, opposition activists say their work will go on.

WinTin Win Tin speaks on the phone with RFA from his home in Rangoon following his release from prison, Sept. 23, 2008.

BANGKOK—A senior leader and founding member of Burma’s dissolved political opposition has vowed its members will keep working for change despite a new law brought in by the military regime, which banned the party.

National League for Democracy (NLD) veteran Win Tin called on members of the party to continue to work for political change.

“We will keep working in politics, as long as we have heads on our shoulders,” he said on the day the NLD ceased to be a legally registered political party in Burma, which the ruling junta refers to as Myanmar.

“Today is the last day of our party’s existence. It is true,” he said in an interview.

“But it does not mean that this is the last day with no tomorrow. There will be many tomorrows,” Win Tin said.

New party

Some NLD members have vowed to form a new party after the NLD, led by imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, was abolished by the junta ahead of rare elections.

Senior NLD figures say at least 25 senior members have signed up to the unnamed party, to advance the movement’s two-decade campaign to end military rule.

In response to the new law, the NLD refused to meet a May 6 deadline to re-register—which would have forced it to expel its own leader because she is serving a prison term.

It will also boycott the election, which critics say is a sham designed to legitimize the junta’s half-century grip on power.

The NLD has seen considerable friction among older, hardline members and younger, more moderate figures who opposed the boycott decision.

Win Tin, 80, said the abolition of the NLD was painful for many.

“For myself, I also felt sad because we have been working with and for this party for 20 years,” he said.

“For this party, there is a leader like Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is still in prison. There have been many people who have sacrificed their lives for the party.”

“There are many who became political prisoners in fighting for the party. We feel that the last day for the party is truly painful,” Win Tin said.

Door open

The doors of the NLD shabby wood-built headquarters in the former capital, Rangoon, opened as usual on Friday, and the party’s signboards and its “fighting peacock” flag were still in view, Agence France-Presse quoted witnesses as saying.

The building, along with the lakeside home where Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 14 of the last 20 years under house arrest, has become an emblem of five decades of struggle against military rule.

Win Tin was a key adviser ahead of the 1990 parliamentary election campaign, after which the NLD won the election but was never allowed to take power.

Win Tin was held for the last 12 years of his jail term in solitary confinement after being sentenced to 21 years’ imprisonment in 1989 following a crackdown on the student-led pro-democracy movement.

Win Tin was given an extra seven years in 1996 for describing the harsh conditions in Insein prison in written testimony to the United Nations.

Original reporting by Nay Rein Kyaw and Khin Khin Ei for RFA's Burmese service. Burmese service director: Nyein Shwe. Translated from the Burmese by Kyaw Min Htun. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.


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