Mon 29 Sep 2008
Filed under: Inside Burma,News
Recently freed after 19 years in prison, Win Tin, who was on Saturday reappointed secretary of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) at an event marking the party’s 20th anniversary, used the occasion to call for the NLD to cooperate with ethnic leaders and pro-democracy groups in the fight for change in Burma.
“Win Tin said the fight for democracy hasn’t ended yet,” NLD spokesman Win Naing told The Irrawaddy. “He said the NLD alone can’t work it out. He said we need to cooperate together with ethnic and pro-democracy forces.”
Freed as part of a government amnesty, the NLD’s Win Tin and Khin Maung Swe were appointed to the party’s Central Executive Committee, while another released member, Than Nyein, was reassigned to his former position as vice-chairman of the Rangoon Division Organizing Committee, according to NLD spokesman Win Naing.
Prominent ethnic Arakanese leader Aye Thar Aung, who is secretary of the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP), welcomed the return of the NLD members and said he believed that the CRPP should also be more active in dealing with the NLD.
Aye Thar Aung told The Irrawaddy that the NLD had not been able to bring about any tangible improvements in democratic reform in Burma within the last 20 years as hoped.
Before his 19 years in prison, Win Tin served as a secretary of the NLD and was senior advisor to detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi. He was arrested in 1989 and sentenced to a total of 20 years imprisonment on a series of trumped up charges, such as “instigation to civil disobedience” and “secretly publishing anti-government propaganda.”
He was released on September 23 along with 9,001 other prisoners, only a handful of whom are considered political prisoners. According to a Thailand-based human rights group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), there are more than 2,000 political prisoners still behind bars in Burma.
During the 20th anniversary ceremony in Rangoon, Win Tin called for the release of all political prisoners, including the detained Buddhist monks, Tin Oo of the NLD and leaders of the 88 Generation Students group-Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and Htay Kywe.
That same day, several members of the NLD-including active youth member Htet Htet Oo Wai-were arrested by security forces and later released, said Nyan Win, the party’s spokesman.
On September 22, the NLD released a statement calling for a review of the junta’s constitutional process. The statement urged Burmese authorities to reconsider the state constitution, calling the draft constitution “one-sided” and lacking the participation of the 1990-elected members of parliament.
Then on Saturday at the anniversary ceremony, the NLD released another statement calling for the ruling junta to release all political prisoners, reopen NLD offices and convene a people’s parliament. More than 300 participants, including NLD members, veteran Burmese politicians and foreign diplomats, attended the 20th anniversary of the NLD’s founding.
The NLD was later warned by the head of Burma’s police, Brig-Gen Khin Yi, to withdraw its statement, because the authorities saw it potentially motivating citizens to undertake activities critical of the military government.
The NLD is the main opposition party in Burma and won a landslide victory-392 out of 492 seats-in parliamentary elections in 1990. However, the current Burmese government, led by Snr-Gen Than Shwe, ignored the election results and refused to transfer power to Suu Kyi’s NLD.
Meanwhile, a monk in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan state in western Burma, was briefly summoned and questioned by authorities after joining about 100 Buddhist monks marching in heavy rain on Saturday in protest against the military government, according to another monk in Sittwe.