03/12/2009, 00.00
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Petition to free political prisoners in Myanmar

Signature campaign begins tomorrow, Human Rights Day in the former Burma. People can sign up on Facebook as well. The goal is to reach 888,888 names by 24 May when pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest is due to end. A dissident’s daughter talks about her father, slams the torture and abuses he has been subjected to.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – Two Thailand-based rights groups, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP) and Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB), have launched a petition drive that seeks 888,888 signatures demanding the release of political prisoners in Myanmar and an end to Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest before 24 May when she is due to be released, dissident Burmese paper The Irrawaddy reported. Anyone interested can join by signing up on Facebook (see Free Burma's Political Prisoners Now!).

The campaign begins tomorrow, Human Rights Day in Myanmar. The goal is to raise awareness about “the plight of political prisoners” in that country and put “more pressure on the Burmese military government.”

The number of signatures refers to the day (8 August 1988) when the ruling junta slaughtered some 3,000 men and women who were peacefully demonstrating in favour of democracy in Myanmar.

Prisons in the military-ruled country still hold about 2,100 “[p]olitical prisoners” who ‘have not committed more crimes than that of expressing their political believes either through word or through action,” Aung San Suu Kyi is quoted as saying in the campaign pamphlet.

Another political prisoner, Mya Aye, held his 45th birthday party on Tuesday in Loikaw Prison in Karenni State, where is serving a 65-year sentence for his political activities.

He is one the young student of 88 Generation, the student movement that organised street demonstrations in 1988. He was arrested for the first time in 1989 and sentenced to eight years in prison. After his release in 1996 he continued the struggle and was re-arrested on 21 August 2007 along with 12 other activists just before that year’s monk uprising.

When I was five months old, my father was jailed for eight years,” said Mya Aye’s daughter Wai Hnin Pwint Thon. “I was four years old when I first met him. But he was behind iron bars, so I didn’t get a chance to embrace him.”

“The prison authorities tortured him every way with electricity, sexual harassment and abuse,” she said.

“As I got older, I realised why he was in prison,” she said. “I admired his sacrifice for his country and his people. I think he is very brave person.”

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