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Burma 19 April 2004

Khin Maung Win (Sunny): "I have never heard of a law that forbids filming or taking photos of Aung San Suu Kyi."

Khin Maung Win, released on 9 April, spoke about his trial and prison conditions in an interview he gave to Democratic Voice of Burma radio. Referring to his court appearance, the photo-journalist said: "They arrested me for taking video film of Aung San Suu Kyi. I told the court that it was my job and that, since 1986, I had done a number of reports on weddings, anniversaries and other events for the families of members of the military police (MIS). This time I was asked to help produce a report on Aung San Suu Kyi and that is what I did. I explained to the court that there was no law that banned taking pictures of her."

Khin Maung Win also described how he went on hunger strike while in prison. "I was sent to Kalay jail in 1998 and spent four years there. Prison conditions constantly worsened. We had very little to eat, very little medical attention and the time allowed to take a shower was cut back. On top of this, political prisoners were treated differently from common-law inmates. They could have their sentences reduced but this was denied to us. That is why we decided to go on a hunger strike. After four days we were separated and sent to different prisons."

Sunny did not believe his release linked to the forthcoming national convention, but he said he "hopes for the prompt release of all the other political prisoners. I am always praying for that."

Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the release on 9 April of photographer and cameraman Khin Maung Win, also known as "Sunny", who had served a seven-year sentence.

Sunny worked for the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). He was arrested on 13 June 1997 along with four other NLD members after filming an interview with Aung San Suu Kyi, the NLD leader and Nobel laureate, and sending the interview abroad.

While expressing satisfaction at his release, Reporters Without Borders regretted that it did not take place earlier. The organisation also voiced concern about the physical and mental health of the 11 journalists still in prison and reiterated its call for press freedom to be part of the "roadmap to democracy" proposed by the ruling junta.

Now aged 44, Sunny told the Democratic Voice of Burma radio station on leaving prison that he was in good health but needed time to rebuild his life. As regards prison conditions, he complained above all that he had been held in turn in four different prisons in the four corners of the country (Rangoon, Kalay, Loykaw and Khan-tee), which made it hard on its family on the few occasions they were allowed to visit him.

Both a photographer and cameraman by profession, Sonny joined the NLD at the start of the 1990s. His videotape of the interview with Aung San Suu Kyi was shown at a press conference during a summit of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) taking place at the time.

Two weeks after his arrest, the head of the Military Intelligence Services, Lt. Gen. Khin Nyunt, accused Sunny of belonging to a group that was collaborating with anti-government activists abroad and with militants at home who were bent on destroying the country. He was given a summary trial and had no chance to defend himself.

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