On 12 March 2002, journalist and member of the National League for Democracy, U Win Tin, is celebrating his 72nd birthday in detention. According to information obtained from Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN special rapporteur for Myanmar, and from former Burmese political prisoners, Win Tin is currently being treated at Rangoon General Hospital, where he was operated on for a hernia. He will probably soon be returned to Insein prison.
Even though his overall condition is stable, a return to prison could endanger his life. Win Tin has suffered, during the 13 years of his detention, from high blood pressure, diabetes and spondylitis (inflammation of the vertebra).
Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières - RSF) and the Burma Media Association (BMA) demand that Win Tin be released for medical reasons. The two organizations fear that a return to prison will worsen Win Tin’s fragile health, and hope that the Burmese authorities will show compassion to a sick, 72-year-old man who has spent the past 13 years of his life in prison. Conditions in Insein prison, the country’s main prison where several political prisoners have died in recent years, are not at all adapted to Win Tin’s poor health.
On Win Tin’s 72nd birthday, RSF has sent the Burmese embassy in France a petition in favor of his release, signed by more than 2,500 people. RSF will discuss Win Tin’s situation during an oral presentation to the next session of the UN Human Rights Commission. In addition, dozens of European media have sponsored Win Tin, and will raise this issue on his birthday.
Former editor-in-chief of the daily Hanthawathi, vice-president of the Burmese Writers’ Association, and member of the board of directors of the National League for Democracy (NLD; the opposition party), Win Tin has been imprisoned since 4 July 1989. He was sentenced to a total of twenty years for sending to the UN special rapporteur for Burma a document on prison conditions and mistreatment in Insein prison.
As far as RSF is aware, at least 17 media professionals are still jailed in Burma. RSF is especially worried about journalist Sein Hla Oo, whose sentence ended in August 2001, but who has still not been released.