Myanmar's fighter for democracy

U WIN TIN: "I express myself very freely and democratically and not always on the party line." ANDREA VANCE ANDREA VANCE IN MYANMAR

In the listless heat of Yangon, a tiny pink fan pushes stifling air around a cramped three-roomed shack.

A dividing wall separates a bedroom/study from the living room, and a rudimentary kitchen area. The washroom is outside, in an overgrown tropical garden, swarming with mosquitoes.

It might be confined, sweaty and basic. But this wooden shack - painted a cheerful lime green - represents liberty for Myanmar's longest-serving political prisoner U Win Tin.

For two decades, he languished in the notorious Insein prison, mostly in solitary confinement in a cell reserved for military dogs. Once one of Burma's most famous journalists, he was imprisoned for "subversion" - criticising the military junta which ruled Myanmar through fear from more than half a century.

The jail sentence came a year after he helped found the National League for Democracy with democratic icon Aung San Suu Kyi in the aftermath of the bloody pro-democracy protests of 1988. Since 2010 a reformist government has released both figures - she served years under house arrest - and begun to tread the path towards democracy.

Street noise, and the incessant drumming of the country's monsoon rain, almost drowns out Win Tin's gentle voice.

"I'm an old man now and my memory is fading," he says, apologising unnecessarily for his grasp of English.

He is now 84, frail, and recently discharged from hospital. His illness is a legacy of the regular beatings he received in prison - all of his lower teeth were kicked out in a particularly vicious attack.

Although his body is weak, the shack, in the garden of the home of a friend, bears witness to his formidable mind. Shelves are lined with books in both Myanmar and English - including Bill Bryson's A Short History of Everything. His desk is littered with pens and papers, which the military denied him in prison.

He writes columns for a number of weekly publications, and, according to friends, he maintains a ferocious passion for football.

A bright oil painting of Daw Suu (Suu Kyi) dominates the living room, in which also hangs a Reporters without Borders poster, marking his 75th birthday - spent behind bars.

After his release, Win Tin returned to politics and his quest for democracy for Myanmar. He is a regular adviser to the party and contributes to its weekly journal. But Suu Kyi's former deputy has wavered recently in his support for the NLD leader.
Share this article :
Myanmar News Now: Copyright © 2013. Thit Htoo Lwin News - All Rights Reserved
Myanmar online advertising by myOpenware