Burma - On 77th birthday, U Win Tin demands respect for his rights as detainee in Insein prison

    MONTREAL, March 12 /CNW Telbec/ - Burma's most famous journalist, U Win
Tin, is spending his 77th birthday today in his special cell in Rangoon's
notorious Insein prison. He marked the occasion by issuing a rare call for
resistance against the military regime that has imprisoned him since July
1989. He told a friend who is allowed to visit him: "All political prisoners
must be freed and the democratic parliament must meet. We must not abandon
these demands."
    Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association said: "The
inhumanity of this military junta, which has imprisoned a sick, 77-year-old
man for nearly 18 years, needs no further proof. By refusing U Win Tin the
right to early release, the regime breaks its own laws and promises. We call
for him to be freed at once."
    When the director general of the prison service, accompanied by the
prison governor, visited U Win Tin on 8 March, the journalist insisted on his
rights as a political prisoner. "I am not going to beg you to free me. It is
my right to be freed because I have served 18 years of my 20-year sentence and
I qualify for early release." The prison governor claimed that he did not
qualify because he had not worked while in prison. U Win Tin replied that, as
a political prisoner, he could not be made to work while in prison. The
director general said he was not sufficiently familiar with his case and would
ask his superiors.
    In the past, the prison authorities had promised the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that U Win Tin would be released early and
that his sentence would not be extended.
    From his cell, U Win Tin, winner of the 2006 Reporters Without Borders
award, also defended the "Suu - Hlut - Twe" platform, consisting of the
release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners (Suu), the meeting of
the parliament that was elected in 1990 (Hlut), and political dialogue (Twe).
"My vision, my opinions and my principles have not changed," he said, calling
on pro-democracy activists to resist repression.
    Since his arrest on 4 July 1989, U Win Tin, who is serving a 20-year
sentence on charges including "anti-government propaganda", has been deprived
of his basic rights, including proper medical treatment and being able to
    U Win Tin needs treatment for high blood pressure and inflammation of the
prostate. Even though he is checked twice a month by a prison doctor, he is
dependent on the help of his relatives who regularly bring him medication and
food. His health has seriously deteriorated after 18 years in prison and he
has suffered two heart attacks.
    The two press freedom organisations have also appealed for people to sign
on www.rsf.org an international petition for his release.

For further information:

For further information: Emily Jacquard, Canadian office representative,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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