Former Burma Political Detainee Won’t Give Up Prison Shirt

Win Tin poses in one of his prison issued shirts as he shows another one of the blue shirts at his home in Yangon on April 9, 2013. (Photo: Reuters / Soe Zeya Tun)

RANGOON — For almost two decades in Burma’s notorious Insein Prison, Win Tin wore the blue shirt issued to all inmates. He kept it after his release in 2008 out of solidarity with other political prisoners who remained in jail.

Now the police want it back, but Win Tin is refusing.

“So long as there are political prisoners here, I feel that I myself am still in jail, so I will wear the blue shirt,” he told Reuters, wearing a copy of the original.

Win Tin, 83, was imprisoned after helping found the National League for Democracy (NLD) with Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the fight against military rule in Burma and spent 15 years under house arrest. She and other NLD members now sit in parliament.

The current president, Thein Sein, was a general and a member of the junta, but he heads a quasi-civilian government that has embarked on a series of reforms over the past two years, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners.

Not good enough, says Win Tin, a celebrated journalist.

“Although I’m said to be free, I am still a prisoner, because the whole country is prisoner to this military regime,” he said, arguing the 2008 constitution should be rewritten to exclude the military from politics.

The constitution gives a quarter of the seats in both houses of parliament to the military and says serving generals should occupy the ministries of defense, interior and border affairs.

Suu Kyi has agreed to work with Thein Sein, praised the military – the modern Burma army was founded by her father – and appeared alongside generals at a military parade in the capital, Naypyitaw, for Armed Forces Day on March 27.

“We have to cooperate to some extent but we cannot compromise all the time,” said Win Tin. “So, I might be a very lonesome voice, not a loud voice, but I must say so all the time.”

Repression persists, he says, and the blue prison shirt is symbolic of his resistance. So when an officer from Insein Township police station visited and asked him to return the shirt, saying it was state property, he declined.

“I told him that I can’t give it back and I’d rather be ready to face whatever lawsuit they wanted to file against me for this. Then he said I had to pay a 2,000 kyat [US $2] fine.”

Win Tin refused to do that, too.

“He then said, after scratching his head, that they would dip into their pockets to pay the fine for me, and told me to sign a statement saying that I had paid the fine. When I told them I couldn’t sign the statement either, they left.”

An officer at the station declined comment.

Win Tin was kept in solitary confinement for most of his 19 years in prison, tortured and deprived of proper food and water, but he would rather go back to prison than give up his shirt.

“If I am sent for trial and if I am sentenced to 10 years, all right, I will go,” he said. “I don’t mind.”


7 Responses to Former Burma Political Detainee Won’t Give Up Prison Shirt

  1. Bravo! It seems like it is small but it is huge history.

  2. Uncle, keep up with the good spirits. Two thumbs up.

  3. dear U win tin
    Keep this “historical wear” from notorious Insein prison. Then, it will go to the national museum with the side of the all real Burmese heroes including all ethnics, not the sides of the U nu, Ne win , than shwe and thein sein ( bama military thugs)-their place is underground.

  4. We always salute you , Saya U Win Tin . Before & After 1988 Burma’s Uprising , Your Writing , your activities inspired countless Burmese Literature Reader inside or outside of Burma . Now , by denying to give up the Prison’s Blue Shirt is seem to be normal matter , but a Giant Blow to the Military Infested Govt. They thought that Most people fear their Guns & Weapons . Indeed, you & Daw ASSK show the Example of Freedom from Fear .

  5. One day, it will be treasured at the museum. It will make the future generations to remember the horrible rule of military dictatorship in Burma.

  6. George Than Setkyar Heine

    “If I am sent for trial and if I am sentenced to 10 years, all right, I will go,” he said. “I don’t mind.”
    This ILK of CHARACTER, CHARISMA and COURAGE as well MADE BURMA since day one and in the first place as well.
    This AGE OLD PIECE of RAG (clothing worn by U Win Tin in prison) that he had WORN for nearly two decades in the dog house is WORTH THAN ALL the GOLD in FOX KNOX today trust me.
    And this BLUE SHIRT would TESTIFY as his LEGACY and SYMBOL of MILITARY BRUTALITY and INHUMANITY in addition to HIS DEFIANCE AGAINST MILITARY DICTATORSHIP as well, any bets?
    “So long as there are political prisoners here, I feel that I myself am still in jail, so I will wear the blue shirt,” he told Reuters, wearing a copy of the original.
    “Although I’m said to be free, I am still a prisoner, because the whole country is prisoner to this military regime,” he said, arguing the 2008 constitution should be rewritten to exclude the military from politics.
    That’s what I would call the SPIRIT of CAMARADERIE (comradeship) no less of course.
    And U Win Tin has BARED HIS BRAVERY and COURAGE saying BURMA is STILL UNDER the HEEL of the MILITARY until today, despite the fact Than Shwe’s CLERK (Thein Sein) is MASQUERADING as a CIVILIAN ATTIRED president HOODWINKING the PEOPLE and DUPING the international community as well.
    He knows Than Shwe is PLAYING POSSUM by just PRACTICING POLITICAL LIBERALIZATION at the moment only to SUIT HIS AIM and PURPOSE – establish a military backed/sponsored continued civilian dynasty in Burma.
    And he is a RADICAL as well and as long as the MILITARY HOLDS SWAY in the COUNTRY trust me.
    “We have to cooperate to some extent but we cannot compromise all the time,” said Win Tin. “So, I might be a very lonesome voice, not a loud voice, but I must say so all the time.”
    This SHOWS HIS CONVICTION and RESOLVE in his fight for FREEDOM and DEMOCRACY as well no doubt.
    Yes, WE NEED MORE LIKE HIM at this time and juncture in Burma of course.

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