24 September 2008

Burmese junta releases Win Tin

The release of Burma’s longest-held prisoner of conscience is reported in today’s Times and widely reported worldwide too. In a move that damns the nation’s brutal regime with faint praise he was released yesterday in an apparent (and futile) attempt to improve its image a year after its brutal crackdown on democracy demonstrations.

Win Tin, a 78-year-old former journalist, was released after 19 years in Insein prison in the city of Rangoon. For much of the time he was held in solitary confinement, including a period in a room intended for prison dogs.

“I will keep fighting until the emergence of democracy in this country,” he said in Rangoon, a few hours after his release. He was still wearing his blue prison overalls as a symbol of rejection of the spin put on his release by the Government — that it was part of an “amnesty” of 9,002 prisoners to “turn them into citizens to be able to participate in building a new nation. I did not accept their terms for the amnesty,” Mr Win said. “I refused to be one of 9,002. They should have released me five years ago. They owe me a few years."

Mr Win, a poet and former magazine editor, was an adviser of Aung San Suu Kyi. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison in 1989 during a crackdown on government opponents. In 1996 he received an additional seven-year sentence for writing a testimonial on torture and lack of medical treatment in Insein, and sending it to the UN. As a punishment he was forced to sleep in a room intended for military dogs and was deprived of food and water.

At least six other political prisoners were released yesterday, at a time when Burmese are remembering the brutal suppression of democracy demonstrations last year. The amnesty may be an attempt to pre-empt commemorations of the peaceful uprising with a move that will win approval from Western governments and human rights groups.

Amnesty International estimates that there are 2,100 political prisoners in Burma. “These seven people should never have been imprisoned in the first place, and there are many, many more who should also be released,” Benjamin Zawacki, of Amnesty International, said.

While it it pleasing to see Win Tin released it is only a drop in a bucket – a token gesture. The people of Burma will not see better times until their regime is swept into the dustbin of history.

Aung Sang Suu Kyi remains under close arrest.


RobW said...

Quite -- but how do you acheive that? And what if the next regime are far worse?

jams o donnell said...

That sounds like a call for the people of Burma to do nothing

SnoopyTheGoon said...

It may be a good idea to shoot every soldier as soon as he/she reaches the rank of... let me see... captain, say.

Sean Jeating said...

Just read this by Reporters without Borders, too, Jams.
It's good news for this man who has grown 19 years older in prison. For the people of Burma nothing has changed, though.
Anyway, again, it's a good news, for a change.

As for above's comment: The Burmese junta, any dictators, would be delighted if 'their' people fearfully asked such a question themselves, instead of trying to find ways to get rid of them.

James Higham said...

A sad, sad indictment but what can we do?

Maddy said...

It hasn't had any press coverage that I've heard [US side] but I'll be listening to the BBC later today.

As for the what can we do - Amnesty International are always open to donations.

Best wishes

jams o donnell said...

Now that may solve a lot of problems Snoopy.. I take it your highst military rank was Lieutenant????

It is good news Sean, if only a tiny bit of good news. Well said on the other issue.

We James? We can do very little. It is the people of Burma that will effect change. The best we can do is communally exert pressure. It's not much though

No surprise but then the US can be extremely parochial. AI can be jersks at times but their gadfly approach to states that lock up prisoners of conscience can and does work

Rambling Woods said...

And we forget that so many people have no freedom....Thank you for letting me know as I came for WW, but this is as important. LIke your WW post too...

Cinnamon Girl said...

One big reason the whole Iraq war pisses me off so much is the use of civil rights and democracy as an excuse. Hello?! Burma!

jams o donnell said...

Thansk Rambling Woods It is an extremely important issue.

I know what you mean Starrlight.

Ardent said...

It is amazing that political and military regimes are so afraid on the words of a few individuals that they need to be locked up for so long.

I am so happy that he had been released, God Bless all Journalists.

jams o donnell said...

Indeed Ardent. It shows the power of the pen!