Opposition Leader Describes Jail

A Burmese opposition leader releases his memoirs.
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Win Tin speaks on the phone with RFA from his home in Rangoon following his release from prison, Sept. 23, 2008.
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 opposition party has celebrated his 80th birthday with the release of a new book documenting his experiences in jail as a political prisoner.

7,000 Days of Prison Experiences, by senior National League for Democracy (NLD) official and prominent journalist Win Tin, describes in detail the life of a political prisoner in Burma.

The 318-page book was sponsored by the Democratic Voice of Burma, a nonprofit Burmese media organization based in Norway.

Win Tin sent a video message to a crowd attending a promotion ceremony for the book held in Maesot, Thailand, on March 12. The ceremony was organized by the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (Burma), a group formed in 2000 by former Burmese political prisoners.

“I felt that I had to write this book so that people know the truth and can empathize with the real plight of Burma’s political prisoners. I hope that when they understand the situation, they will be motivated to oppose Burma’s dictators and fight them,” he said.

“I know that I face great risk in writing this book, but I refuse to be intimidated by this danger. I purged all of my fears and wrote frankly about what everyone should know.”

Win Tin said that until Burma’s citizens become aware of the oppression they are living under, they will be unable to effectively organize a challenge to Burma’s military junta for control of the country.

“Burma is home to 40 prisons, including Insein prison. The political prisoners are held within the four walls of these prisons, but the rest of the population is being held in an even larger prison—the borders of Burma. They must be made to understand that.”

Win Tin’s book is being sold in Thailand for 200 baht (about U.S. $6) and to foreigners there for U.S. $15 per copy. Proceeds will go towards the assistance of political prisoners in Burma.

Defiant still

Before his release in September 2008 after 19 years in jail, Win Tin refused to sign a gag order from the military regime, saying he would be happier staying behind bars. The authorities let him go anyway. Minutes after his release, he vowed to keep fighting for democracy in Burma.

"What I believe is that there is a need for negotiations. There are matters to be discussed. There are demands to be made, changes and amendments to be made and coordinated," the activist said at the time.

Win Tin, who was released alongside a handful of other political activists, was a key adviser ahead of the 1990 parliamentary election campaign for opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy (NLD) party won the parliamentary poll but was never allowed to take power by Burma's military regime.

He said he had rejected outright an attempt to silence him made by prison authorities on the day of his release.

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.

He was charged with harboring a criminal after a colleague whose partner received an illegal abortion stayed in his home.

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

The military junta forced the NLD to expel Win Tin in 1990 because of his status as a criminal, but Win Tin has vowed to continue to work for political development in Burma.

Original reporting by Moe Kyaw for RFA’s Burmese service. Burmese service director: Nyein Shwe. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written for the Web in English by Joshua Lipes. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.





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