RANGOON — Aye Ne Win, a grandson of former dictator Ne Win who spent about 10 years in prison, described the late democracy activist Win Tin as a “brave man” for his defiance against authorities during his imprisonment.
Win Tin, a cofounder of the National League for Democracy (NLD), was detained for almost 20 years, mostly in Rangoon’s Insein Prison and it was here that Aye Ne Win witnessed some of the activist’s bravery in the face of repressive authorities.
In a letter posted on a Burmese-language blog Shwe Myanmar Media Group, Aye Ne Win recalled that Win Tin, who passed away on Monday, refused to leave the prison gates after he was set free in September 2008 as part of a general government amnesty.
“He [Win Tin] was supposed to go home immediately after his release in early morning, but he didn’t go home immediately and stayed outside the prison until the evening. He was a brave man,” wrote Aye Ne Win.
“The reason why he didn’t want to go home was that he didn’t want to appear as if he was freed because he was old and ill. He wanted to be viewed as a politician who was released to continue political works.”
According to Aye Ne Win, Win Tin told the prison authorities he would only go home if they recognized that he was freed in order to carry on with his political movement.
The NLD politician demanded witnesses to this agreement and Aye Ne Win said that he, along with his father and two brothers, were brought over to witness the agreement.
“He went home after he reached the agreement and had the four of us as witnesses. That’s why I’m giving this witness account for him [Win Tin] as he passed away and I want to make sure the prison authorities can’t deny it,” wrote Aye Ne Win.
Win Tin was an outspoken critic of Burma’s current and previous government. After his arrest in 1989, he spent nearly 20 years in prison where he was tortured physically and mentally.
Aye Ne Win and his father and two brothers were imprisoned in 2002 after the then military regime of Snr-Gen Than Shwe decided to charge them with treason. Aye Ne Win and his brothers were released late last year. Former dictator Ne Win lost power to a new generation of generals after 1988, when the Burma Army crushed a democratic uprising and carried out a military coup.
During his incarceration, Aye Ne Win spent several years in Insein Prison where he became friends with Win Tin.
In his 2008 prison memoir “A Man-made Hell,” Win Tin mentioned that he read Harry Porter and several other books that he borrowed from Aye Ne Win.
Strongman Ne Win was known to like Win Tin and met him several times during his reign, which began in 1962. But in 1978 the Hanthawaddy Daily, the newspaper where Win Tin served as editor-in-chief, was shut down after it published an article critical of Ne Win’s government.