03/15/2010, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Win Tin’s story, 7,000 days in a Burmese prison

Journalist and co-founder of the National League for Democracy, Win Tin spent 19 years in prison, 12 under isolation. He recently celebrated his 80th birthday. In a book, he says Myanmar is prison. In 1989, he was sentenced to 21 years in prison for anti-government propaganda.
Yangon (AsiaNews/RFA) – Win Tin, a prominent Burmese journalist and pro-democracy activist, has just celebrated his 80th birthday, 19 of which spent in jail as a political prisoner. In a recently released book, he describes his time in prison, going into the details of the everyday life of a political dissident. He hopes it might help others understand how much those who fight for democracy in Myanmar suffer.

Sponsored by the Democratic Voice of Burma, a Norway-based non-profit Burmese media organisation, the 318-page book titled ‘7,000 Days of Prison Experiences’ gives Win Tin, a top leader and co-founder of the National League for Democracy (NLD), an opportunity to talk about the abuses he endured in prison for so many years, 12 of which under isolation.

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

A former vice president of the writers’ union, he was charged with anti-government propaganda and sentenced to 21 years in jail following a crackdown on Generation 88, a student-led pro-democracy movement. He got an extra seven years for describing the harsh conditions in Insein prison in a 1996 written testimony to the United Nations.

Last Friday, he sent a video-message to a crowd in Maesot on the Thai-Burmese border that had gathered for a promotional ceremony organised 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 empathise with the real plight of Burma’s political prisoners. I hope [. . .] they understand the situation,” he said.

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

“Burma is home to 40 prisons, including Insein prison. 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.”

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