04/22/2014, 00.00
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Yangon: Catholics and activists mourn death of Burma's democracy leader Win Tin

by Francis Khoo Thwe

Co-founder of the National League for Democracy, he spent 19 years in prison and 12 in isolation. Aung San Suu Kyi speaks of "grave loss", but points out that "his words and his example will remain with us" the Archbishop of Yangon speaks to AsiaNews of the "tireless fighter against the dictatorship". In protest, even as a freeman he continued to wear the blue shirt of detainees.

Yangon ( AsiaNews) - From opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to the Archbishop of Yangon, pro-human rights movements and pro-democracy activists;  the nation of Myanmar is mourning the death of U Win Tin, a long-time political prisoner and icon of the struggle against the Burmese military junta. He died yesterday at age 85; he had been hospitalized since March 12 because of respiratory problems and died of a multiple failure of internal organs. Among the founders of the National League for Democracy (NLD), U Win Tin was among the most influential personalities of the opposition and within the party itself, even to clashing with its leader. He fought to reform the Asian nation, formerly known as Burma; a battle that earned him 19 years in prison, the notorious Insein prison in Yangon, most of which he spent in solitary confinement. Interviewed by the BBC, the "Lady" - Suu Kyi's name in Myanmar - spoke of "a great loss, but not a defeat. His thoughts, his words and his example will remain with us".

In a memoir published in 2010, he described the daily life of a dissident in prison in great detail, hoping that "it will help people understand the suffering" of those fighting for democracy in Myanmar. Titled "The experience of 7 thousand days in prison," in 318 pages the co-founder of the NLD described the abuse he suffered in jail following his arrest in 1989, including 12 years spent in solitary confinement.

Shortly before his release, in September 2008 , the junta had ordered him to sign a document in which he promised not to divulge information about his detention. He refused outright, responding he would rather remain "behind bars". And once out of prison, he continued to fight for democracy in Myanmar and wear the blue shirt, the uniform characteristic of Insein's prisoners in protest.

Archbishop Charles Bo of Yangon describes to AsiaNews a "veteran pro-democracy campaigner and undaunted fighter against the military dictatorship in the Country. We share the sorrow and grief of the nation at the demise of this fearless and courageous personage. We believe that he is one, who gave himself totally for the democratization of the country. As a person he is being respected very much by all of us. We are not aware of any negative remarks or accusations made against him neither in his political carrier nor in his personal life.".

"He was an upright and honest man - adds the Archbishop of Yangon - His death is a great loss to the process of democratization and leaves a big vacuum which will be almost impossible to replace. We salute him and pray for him that he may rest in peace, where there is no pain and tears and especially where there is no dictatorial oppression in any form. We also offer our sincere and deepest condolence to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD".

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP - Burma), one of the most important groups of Burmese dissidents to operate in favor of political prisoners, expresses "deep sorrow" and speaks of "a great loss for our country." As a journalist and editor "he has written extensively on politics and human rights" and in time gave birth to an organization dubbed "U Win Tin Foundation to support and assist the former political prisoners and writers". The group pays homage to his tireless campaign to "eradicate the military junta and to bring human rights, democracy and national reconciliation to Burma".


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