Campaign to Free Prominent Prisoner Wins Wide Support

By Nyein Nyein, Political Prisoners 8 October 2012

Supporters of Myint Aye, the imprisoned founder of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP) network, say they have collected more than 10,000 signatures since launching a campaign for his release late last month.

The 61-year-old rights activist was sentenced to life in prison in November 2008 after being found guilty of conspiring to blow up a branch office of the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Association in Rangoon’s Shwepyithar Township earlier that year.

He is currently serving his sentence in Loikaw Prison, in eastern Burma’s Karenni State.

The HRDP said that it started its campaign in Irrawaddy and Pegu divisions in the last week of September, but last week began collecting signatures in Rangoon, Tenasserim, Mandalay and Sagaing divisions and Mon, Shan, Karrenni and Kachin states.

“We will continue collecting signatures until the end of this month and then send the petition with a letter of appeal to President Thein Sein, calling for the release of U Myint Aye and other remaining political prisoners,” said Maung Maung Lay, the current leader of the HRDP.

“U Myint Aye has been working in a peaceful manner to promote human rights and democracy for more than 40 years. Although the new government is introducing democratic reforms and has released some political prisoners five times in less than two years, U Myint Aye is still in prison,” he added.

Myint Aye was charged under Section 3 of the Explosives Act, Section 6 of the Law Relating to the Formation of Organizations, Section 17/1 of the Unlawful Association Act and Section 13/1 of Immigration Act for his alleged role in the 2008 bomb plot.

Two other suspects—Yan Shwe from Shwepyithar and Zaw Zaw Aung from Hlaing Tharyar Township—are also still in prison in connection with the incident.

“[Myint Aye] was forcefully arrested, tortured both physically and mentally and forced to plead guilty to crimes that he did not commit and sentenced to life imprisonment under the previous military regime,” said Maung Maung Lay.

The HRDP also plans to send the letter to international rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as the office of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, the Asia Human Rights Commission and UN human rights envoy for Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana.

Myint Aye founded the HRDP in 2001. According to the group, this is his eighth time in prison since 1974.