Don’t be Fooled by Freedom

“I am not happy with my freedom. I am very sorry about my colleagues who are still serving time in prisons”. U Tin Oo, Vice-Chairman of the NLD.

On Saturday 13th February Vice-Chairman of the NLD U Tin Oo was released from house arrest having been held without trial for the past 7 years. Naturally his release is to be celebrated and having met and interviewed his son last week in Japan for The Irrawaddy I raise a bigger glass than before to his freedom. But as he says in his own words, he is not happy with his freedom. There are almost 2,200 political prisoners in Burma’s notorious prisons. The ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) no longer inspect prison conditions where torture is state policy. Today Tomas Quintana, the UN special envoy to Burma has arrived in Rangoon for a five-day visit to assess the country’s progress on human rights. If a 100% increase in political prisoners in the time that U Tin Oo has been under house arrest is the progress that the UN are looking for then they have achieved that. You can be sure that the Junta’s roadmap to a disciplined democracy will be laid out for Mr Quintana with the headlines that they are serious about dialogue with the opposition and so have released the Vice-Chairman of the NLD. They may allow Mr Quintana to view a freshly painted ward in Insein prison where clean blankets have been distributed moments before his arrival only to be taken away as he leaves. The usual tricks and smokescreens will be played as always before. There is more chance of it snowing in Rangoon than there is of Mr Quintana being allowed to view the so-called SPDC progress on human rights in Eastern Burma and other ethnic areas where just last week 2,000 more Karen villagers were forced to flee their villages under attack from the Burmese army. If the UN are serious, then this time they will not leave until they have something worthwhile to bring back. We do not need your condemnation Mr Quintana. We need action.

This is Tun Lin Kyaw. He was detained for 3 years in Insein prison.

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