Suu Kyi release would awaken Burma, says ally

The anticipated release from house arrest of Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi next month will stir a "political reawakening" in the country after half a century of military rule, her close ally Win Tin told
The Independent.

"Aung San Suu Kyi's release will be like a great rain. When the monsoon comes to Burma it brings the whole countryside to life. When she is released the Burmese people will be reawakened," Win Tin, one of the founding members of Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), said in Rangoon.

Ms Suu Kyi is due to be released from house arrest in Rangoon on 13 November. The date marks the end of an 18-month sentence for breaking the rules of her detention when she offered shelter to an eccentric American man who swam, uninvited, to her lakeside home.

The offence was simply the latest in a series of alleged misdemeanours that the military has identified in order to keep the Nobel peace laureate in detention for 15 of the last 21 years.

The most recent term of detention was carefully calibrated to ensure Ms Suu Kyi would be kept out of the picture until Burma's first election in two decades, to be held on 7 November, was safely wrapped up in the military's favour.

South-east Asia's top diplomats yesterday demanded that Aung San Suu Kyi be freed before the elections. Meanwhile, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon said that by freeing its jailed dissidents, Burma could create a "perception that this election will be more inclusive", even if it's too late for the dissidents to run as candidates or to vote.

Like his mentor Ms Suu Kyi, the 81-year-old Win Tin has spent many years imprisoned for his political beliefs.

After 19 years in jail, most of them spent in solitary confinement in Rangoon's notorious Insein prison, he was finally freed in 2008 and immediately resumed his dissident activities.

While his years of resistance mark him out as one of the most courageous leaders of Burma's democracy movement, Win Tin still believes that the only person who can oust the ruling generals is the charismatic Ms Suu Kyi, the daughter of Burma's revered independence fighter General Aung San.

"I can confront the junta personally but I cannot organise other people to do the same," said Win Tin, bright and energetic despite the years of beatings and abuse that he suffered in jail. "Only she can do that. She is the only one who can uproot this junta."

Ms Suu Kyi was unable to stand in the election, and her party has called for a boycott, citing gross unfairness in the electoral process. Despite the participation of several small opposition parties, including a breakaway group of NLD members, the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party is heading for a convincing win – mostly because it is the only party with enough funds to put up candidates in all constituencies.

"There are so many things that are unfair about this election. We don't believe it's a real political solution. It will just help the military to get what they want – to rule for a century or more," said Win Tin.

Even if things do go smoothly for the regime, Ms Suu Kyi's release is by no means assured. Although government officials have acknowledged that she will have completed her sentence on 13 November, the decision to free her will be ultimately made by the country's top general Than Shwe, who could come up with any number of excuses to keep Ms Suu Kyi, 65, behind bars. Burma has confirmed that Than Shwe himself will not run in the elections as the military regime attempts to present a new image to the world.

Win Tin himself can only hope. He has not seen Ms Suu Kyi since the morning of his arrest on charges of treason in 1989, a year before the NLD won a landslide victory in the last national elections, a result that was ignored by the generals who refused to give up power. Despite the passing years, Win Tin's memories of his political icon are still vivid.

"She drew crowds that were a mile deep. People could not see her, but they came anyway. There was hope and expectation and I pray I will see this again," he said. "She is great. She is wise and committed, hard-working and far-sighted. We believe she can lead our country."

Win Tin: a life in brief: The poet devoted to democracy

When Win Tin went to prison, he was a poet, editor and close aide to Aung San Suu Kyi at the tail end of middle age. When he came out again, he was an old man – and an activist hero second only to Suu Kyi as a symbol of the fight for democracy in Burma.

Win Tin was jailed in 1989 for three years – and then had his sentence twice extended, once for "publishing anti-government propaganda" from inside the infamous Insein prison. He had heart attacks, a slipped disc, and lost most of his teeth in prison. Yet asked to resign from the National League for Democracy in exchange for his release, he refused.

When he was finally freed in 2008, as part of a wider release of prisoners the government termed "a gesture of loving kindness and goodwill", he was the country's longest-serving political prisoner. But he immediately returned to political activism, relaunching weekly meetings of his party that had fizzled out after he and Suu Kyi were jailed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)