Today we honor U Win Tin on his 80th birthday, whose courage, integrity, and determination serve as a constant source of inspiration to the Burmese people in their quest for freedom. People believe him, follow him, and find him to be their daily tower of strength against the brutal dictatorship.
U Win Tin spent 19 years in solitary confinement behind the draconian walls of prison because he thinks and speaks the truth about the military government. Even after his release from prison in 2008, he vows that he would “dismantle the military dictatorship until my final breath, with all my remaining strength and power.” He may be turning 80 today but his unparallel courage and his indomitable spirit seem deceiving of his growing age.
He is known for his wit, his outspokenness, and his inexhaustible voice against the military regime. Last fall, he wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, downright criticizing the ruling junta and the upcoming sham elections. He wrote, “We will not be cowed or coerced into participating in a fatally flawed political process that robs the Burmese people of the freedom for which we struggle.”
His sentiments are echoed by a recent report published by the UN Special Rapporteur to Burma, Mr. Tomas Ojea Quintana. In his report, Mr. Quintana stated that the Burmese government’s deliberate disregard for the demands of the international community to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all 2,200 political prisoners prior to its elections gives little reason for confidence that the elections will be held under circumstances that are free and fair. He also called for a UN commission of inquiry on Burma, adding in his report, “there was a pattern of gross and systematic violation of human rights in the country… [and] these human rights violations may entail categories of crimes against humanity or war crimes.”
Furthermore, Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell today expressed his disappointment and concern regarding the new electoral laws released by the military regime. He said, “it’s very regrettable…and a setback.”