AAPP Report: Torture, Political Prisoners and the Un-Rule of Law

A new report was released today by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) documenting torture faced by political prisoners – you can download it here and also it’s in the ‘AAPP Reports’ section on this site.

Written by Bo Kyi and Hannah Scott, the report “Torture, Political Prisoners and the Un-Rule of Law: Challenges to Peace, Security and Human Rights in Burma” provides further evidence for the case of a Commission of Inquiry to be established to investigate crimes against humanity committed by the SPDC – torture being just one of those crimes.

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Norway Day 3: Bergen and Fleeing Burma’s Past

Last time we were in Norway it was minus 16. Thankfully today it’s a beautiful day with the sun shining and about 30 degrees warmer. Bergen is a beautiful city on the west coast of Norway, surrounded by mountains and the cold north sea and the hundreds of fjords that bisect the stunning coastline. With just one day in town the day we have to work quickly but we’re in good safe hands as always and the day has been put together by Ma Kaythi Aye, someone who has been instrumental for over a year in helping me with the trips to Norway and locating former political prisoners. So it’s off to Ma Kaythi’s house to meet Cho Cho Tun Nyein, Hero Clyde and Kyaw Maung Maung Thwin and of course no better way to start the day than with Ohn Nyot Khaut Swe (coconut noodle soup) – reminding me of our time with Ma Hla Hla Htwe and Cho Seint in Lillehammer. Ma Kaythi Aye this trip now would not have been possible without your help – thank you so much for your kindness… and your lighting skills!

Kaythi Aye

Kaythi Aye was heavily involved in the Rangoon University Students’ Union’s activities. She was arrested on 15th December 1991 after her participation in the 10D student movement that took place on 10th December 1991 in celebration of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s winning of the Nobel Peace Prize. She was arrested and interrogated for 3 days by military intelligence before being transferred to Insein prison. 4 months later she was sentenced to 12 years. She was released on May 4th, 1992 under General Amnesty Declaration 11/92.  She was detained again in June, 2003. She was suspected of collecting eyewitnesses to the Depayin massacre and sending them to an embassy in Rangoon. This was the final straw for her and she fled Burma in August 2003 for the Thai Burma border. She contacted former political prisoners on the border and worked with the AAPP until February 2005 when she resettled to Bergen.

Cho Cho Tun Nyein

Cho Cho Tun Nyein, a Zoology graduate from Rangoon University and lawyer joined the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) during the 1988 uprising. In September 1988, after the military coup, he joined the National Political front (NPF) and was a member of the party’s Central Executive Committee. The SLORC banned the NPF in August 1989, and Cho Cho Tun Nyein was immediately arrested and charged under Section 5(j) of the Emergency Provision Act and 10(a) of the State Protection Act. He was detained in Insein Prison for two-and-a- half years before being sentenced in January 1992 to three years imprisonment. Four months later on May 1, he was released from Insein Prison under a conditional amnesty 11/92 in which he had to guarantee that he would not become involved in politics. On the day he was released his mother died at 2am. He did not see his mother before she passed away. In 1992 he received a Masters Degree in Zoology from Rangoon University. In March 1995, Cho Cho Tun Nyein was again detained by the authorities, but this time just for 14 days, after attending the funeral of former Prime Minister U Nu. After the December 1996 student demonstrations in Rangoon he was once again sought by the authorities and so fled to Thailand in April 1997 where he worked with the Burma Lawyers’ Council in Bangkok. From 1998 – 2001 he worked in Bangkok before moving to Mae Sot where he worked until 2004. In 2004 he started working full time for AAPP before resettling to Bergen in February 2005.

Hero Clyde

Hero Clyde, a Karen student living in Hin Tha Da township in Irrawaddy Delta was arrested in December 1981 whilst staying with his Karen relatives and friends in Rangoon. They were all arrested along with many other Karen who were suspected of illegal association with the KNU and other outlawed organisations. He was detained by MI and interrogated for 3 months. before being sent to Insein prison where he was detained for 3 years before being sentenced in a military court. After 2 months he was transferred to Hlay Hlaw Inn Labour camp not far from Rangoon where he spent 8 and half months building the Rangoon to Mandalay highway. In a brave and daring move he escaped from the camp one night with a colleague and fled to safety making their way to the Three Pagodas Pass some 2 weeks later. But no sooner than they arrived Hero Clyde suffered severe Malaria that struck him down for 2 years. Upon his recovery he joined the KNU and moved up to Manerplaw where he soon became a Captain in Battalion 5 in the KNLA leading many highly dangerous missions. After the fall of Manerplaw he moved to Papun town whilst his family were in Mer Da Mu camp. In 2006 he left the KNLA and joined his family in the camp due to health problems and later that year he was resettled to Norway where he currently lives with his family in Bergen.

Kyaw Maung Maung Thwin

Kyaw Maung Maung Thwin was a student at Moulmein University from 1995 – 1998. When the universities were closed in 1997 after student demonstrations in Rangoon he went to Thailand to meet his brother and colleagues in the ABSDF and became a messenger. When he returned to Burma he was arrested in Myawaddy and accused of making contact with an illegal organisation. He was detained by Military Intelligence for one month and was brutally tortured, still today he suffers severe health repercussions due to the torture he endured. He was charged under 17/1 and sentenced to 2 years in prison where he was jailed in Moulmein prison until his release in October 2000. After his release he returned home to Mon State and joined the local NLD party but was unable to go anywhere or see anyone without having to inform the local authorities. He stayed for only 2 months before fleeing to Thailand. He stayed with ABSDF for 3 years working as volunteer teacher at ABSDF school before moving to Mae Sot  in 2003 where he joined the AAPP, working there for over 2 years. In 2005 he resettled to Bergen.

The sun shone all day and we enjoyed the scenic view from up on high overlooking this beautiful city after we had finished taking the portraits. The day flew past and before I knew it I was racing to the airport but not before finding time to take another portrait of Ma Kaythi as the sun had played a few tricks with the one we took at Bergen’s famous Bryggen wharf. This time it worked as we shot inside the wharf itself rather than showing the tourist side the world sees. And that is what this whole project is all about – getting inside to tell the real stories that the world just does not see.

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Hands Up For Democracy in Burma

Another major article in a national newspaper – this time it’s the The Observer newspaper in the UK that ran a double page feature on this work with political prisoners. Thanks to Jack Davies for his time and the many long distance phone conversations we’ve had over the past week.

You can read the article on The Observer website.

Unlike the first major international feature article about this work in The Independent (which concentrated on telling the story about the work itself and about political prisoners) this article leads with the portraits of celebrities and politicians/statesmen accompanying the portraits of two former political prisoners – my friends ‘Zulu’ and ‘Andrew’ as it has now become a campaign and politics is on the agenda with the election fast approaching. This shows how with Amnesty International‘s involvement we have been able to attract high profile people to stand in solidarity on this issue. Raising awareness amongst the general public is crucial if we are to achieve our hopes of change. However, an unfortunate by-product of that need to educate and inform people is often the way in which the message is carried to the masses and in this article the rather unfortunate sub-heading stating that “Amnesty organised a unique photo project” may be true to the extent that a few celebrities have been photographed by Amnesty as well as more than 5,000 members of the public, but it does not reflect or respect the fact that this is an independent long term documentary project (still ongoing) in which many people in Burma as well as outside have put their lives on the line and continue to do so right now as we speak in order to get the world to stand up and take notice about the illegal incarceration of more than 2,150 political prisoners in Burma. To read about the actual “unique photo project” please read the Independent’s take on this matter. Amnesty International have of course done more than just arrange a few people to be photographed and they didn’t write the sub-heading that is misleading at best but unfortunate journalistic licence in order to attract attention like the large portrait that adorns both pages. Without Amnesty International being involved now in the capacity that they are there would be no major campaign, there would be no 5,000plus images of support being delivered by British Deputy Prime Minister to the ASEM meeting today and there would be no images of Nick Clegg himself and other world leaders, statesmen and celebrities standing in solidarity with the former political prisoners who are leading the way. Like the newspaper editor who said during the Saffron Revolution that Burma is only on the front pages because the colourful images of monks robes make good pictures, too often to get the world to listen you have to sanitize the truth. If a celebrity or even you or I can bring change to Burma and bring about the release of all political prisoners then I will be the first person to celebrate, but please don’t forget who it’s all about. Those who have suffered and those who continue to do so. They are the ones who are leading the way.

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Political Activist and Former Political Prisoner Speaking Tour to New Zealand

My good friend and former political prisoner Aung Khaing Min who works at the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, will be visiting New Zealand on a 10 day tour giving a first-hand account of his own experiences as an activist and political prisoner in Burma and the personal struggles the people of Burma face. He was just 14 years old when he first stood up to the regime in 1988 and has spent 5 years in prison for his political activities. Aung Khaing Min will also be asking the New Zealand Government what they are doing for the people of Burma. His visit from October 10th-20th is part of Amnesty International’s Freedom campaign.

For full details of his trip please visit Amnesty New Zealand

Aung Khaing Min was jailed for 5 years in Insein and Taungoo prisons


His brother’s name ‘Chit Ko Lin’ is written on his hand.
Chit Ko Lin is serving a 7 year sentence in Pakokku prison

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Waihnin Pwint Thon Speaks for Burma and Political Prisoners at the UK Labour Party Conference

The issue of Political Prisoners and Burma has taken centre stage today at the annual British Labour Party conference being held in Manchester, UK. The short film made about this political prisoner work was shown as an introduction to a speech from Waihnin Pwint Thon, daughter of jailed 88 Generation Student leader Ko Mya Aye,

 

Waihnin Pwint Thon demands the release of her father Mya Aye

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Burma’s Political Prisoner’s Launch Photomonth Festival

Internationally renowned photography festival “Photomonth” celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and who better to take centre stage on the launch night other than Burma’s political prisoners. The official website is launching soon but you can read more about the festival here on ‘The Arts Hub’.

To have my name mentioned in the same breath as my hero Philip Jones Griffiths is enough for me, but it’s huge exposure and awareness for the issue of Burma and political prisoners that is most important as the launch party will generate good media attention.

Download your invitations here and come and show your support for Burma’s political prisoners.

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i-D Magazine: Raising a Hand For Suu

‘The Arch’ keeps raising the profile, this time its a feature in the iconic creative, arts and fashion magazine i-D. Curated by Tricia Jones, the section of i-D called “Soul i-D” features interviews, films and charity projects from around the world relating to the 2008 book SOUL i-D. As with previous projects and photo essays I’ve done on Burma featured in Dazed & Confused, it’s great to be able to cross over into a whole new audience to raise awareness about Burma’s plight.

Full article here on the i-D magazine website

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Tutu Raises A Hand For Suu Kyi

With the Arch’s portrait now officially released, DVB write up an article which will hopefully help spread the message not just further around the world but further inside Burma as well.

Full article here on the DVB website

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Archbishop Tutu Demands The Release of Burma’s Political Prisoners

A massive moment for this campaign and it has been possible thanks to the Elders, an independent group of world leaders of which Archbishop Desmond  Tutu is the chair.
(Very special thanks to Katy Cronin and everyone at The Elders for their belief in this work and Burma’s political prisoners)

Full details can be read here on The Elders website

Archbishop Desmond Tutu demnads the release of Aung San Suu Kyi
and ALL of Burma’s political prisoners

“For me, Honorary Elder, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the living symbol of the Burmese people’s hope and courage. She is the embodiment of their determination to live in freedom, health and prosperity. That is why I have written her name on my hand.

“There are thousands of others who are also imprisoned and detained in Burma. Each of them is a sign of great hope, determination and courage. Please join Amnesty, the Elders and our fellow activists by naming each of Burma’s political prisoners, by holding that person’s name up and demanding their release.

“We condemn the ongoing detention of political prisoners. We call on Burma’s neighbours to make it clear to the military authorities that they must be released and that the people must be able to exercise their freedoms safely in the run-up to the elections on November 7.

“At every Elders meeting we always keep an empty chair for Daw Suu Kyi but she has never been able to join us. Work with us in the spirit shown by Burma’s activists, for the day when she and her fellow activists will be free.”

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Oitzarisme – Creative, Film, Photography and Fashion

Online article on the Creative, Film, Photography and Fashion blog in Romania “Oitzarisme” – you can see the article here

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