Unofficial AAPP translation of interview with Democratic Voice of Burma 23 September 2009
88 Generation Student member Myo Yan Naung Thein was released by the military government along with other prisoners. He was released from Thandwe prison in Arakan State. 35 year-old Myo Yan Naung Thein has suffered severely from a neurological disease that has left him unable to walk. He was arrested on 15 December 2007 and given a 2 year sentence, charged under section 505b of the Penal Code. He was released three months before the completion of his sentence. He said he was released from Thandwe prison on 19 September, and arrived at home on 21 September.
“We were told in the afternoon of 18 September that we would be released. And they give us 1000 kyats (1$) for the traveling costs to get back home. But we weren’t released that day because they were waiting for a fax from the district local authority. So we were released on the morning of 19 September,” said Myo Yan Naung Thein.
Please explain how you were arrested?
In the afternoon of 15 December 2007, while I was on the phone to my Mom at a shop on the corner of Hledan Junction, two men grabbed me by the hands. They were very strong. They had tattoos and looked like criminals. I shouted out because I thought that they had kidnapped me by mistake. And then one of them grabbed me by the throat, put his hand over my mouth, and pushed me into a taxi. They hooded me, and I was forced to lie down in the taxi. One of them sat on top of me.
Where did they take you?
I don’t know where they took me because I was hooded.
What happened next?
As soon as I got there, they started to kick and punch me. They forced me to kneel on all fours like a dog, and one of them sat on my back.
Did they ask you anything?
They asked me, “Do you know Soe Tun? Where is Nilar Thein? Where are Zaw Min alias Baung Baung, and Htay Kywe?”
Why did they imprison you?
I was accused of allowing Zaw Min alias Baung Baung to stay at my home, and giving wrong information to 88 Generation Student Soe Tun and Win Zaw from DVB. For those reasons, the authorities charged me under Section 505b [of the Penal Code].
How did they interrogate you in the Interrogation Center?
At first I didn’t know where I was taken. Those men were really violent and rude to me. Later I found out the people who took me were from Military Affairs Security. They asked me about Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi and Htay Kywe. Mainly they asked about Soe Tun. Soe Tun and I worked together in the 1996 student movement, we both had leading roles, and we were arrested and imprisoned in the same case. Finally I realized I was in the Interrogation Center. They tortured me very brutally. My hands were tied behind my back, they kicked and punched me. They locked me in a dark wet room with no windows. I didn’t know whether it was day or night.
How was your health after you were sentenced?
I was sent to Insein Annex prison and put in a cell. One of my legs was deteriorating day by day. I already suffered from a neurological condition once in 1991. So I informed prison authorities that I couldn’t move, because of nerve damage. But they didn’t care. A prison medic came and saw me but he was a normal doctor, not a Neuro-Specialist. So I requested to meet see a Neuro-Specialist but they ignored my request. Then the nerve damage got so bad I couldn’t move my legs at all. My mother sent request letters to the prison General Director many times, and the exile media also reported on my case. So finally I got a chance to see a Neuro-Specialist, and he told me my hands were also affected.
How long did you stay in Thandwe prison?
I was transferred to Thandwe prison after sentencing. Actually, I had an appointment with a doctor at Rangoon hospital [at that time]. But they sent me to Thandwe prison anyway, without any consideration about my appointment. They transferred me to Thandwe prison, because it is really far away from home and very cold, and because they thought it would help my health!
How was it in Thandwe prison?
We – me, Zaw Min Zin, Maung Latt and Maung Than – were transferred to Thandwe prison. We were all handcuffed. They put everyone in iron shackles except me. They carried me because I couldn’t walk. They didn’t allow me to urinate during the journey to Thandwe prison, which took the whole night. It was so hard on me.
Did you sign a pledge?
Yes, we were released under section 401. It’s not a pledge exactly, but we will have go back to prison and serve the remainder of our sentences if we are arrested again for political activities.
How do you feel about your release?
I feel nothing, because I was close to completing my sentence. There are 10 political prisoners in Thandwe prison. Now two were released, and the others were not. If they are honest, they will have to release all political prisoners because they are talking about national reconciliation. Ko Win Maw, the guitarist from the band Alinkar, is in bad health and suffers from asthma. At night, sometimes he can’t breathe properly and then he almost falls unconscious. There are no medics, no doctors, and no proper medical care.
How’s your health condition after your release from prison?
I can’t stand up or walk. I can only walk if I have a person on either side to help me.
Now that you have been released, what are you going to do next?
It’s the second time for me to be released from prison. I was in prison first when I was 22 years old because I was involved in the 1996 student movement. I was released in 2003. After Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi were released, I worked with them, the 88 Generation Students. So I was imprisoned again. We sacrificed a lot. I will have to carry on until we get democracy in Burma. As a student, I didn’t really know about politics. I only knew that the military government is wrong. So I rebelled and demonstrated against the military government. Their rule is totally wrong for Burma. Because of that, they arrested and cruelly imprisoned me. After we were imprisoned, we learned more and more about the injustices carried out by the military government, and that strengthened my beliefs even more. So who will keep fighting if we don’t? We have to carry on. But for the moment, I still don’t know about the current situation in Burma. I need to learn, and wait and see for a while. I am sure I will carry on, but I don’t know how.