Regime frees longest-serving political prisoner, Win Tin; Leaked document reveals Myanmar’s thinking on US role
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  • Myanmar’s longest-serving political prisoner, the 79-year-old journalist Win Tin, was freed on September 23 after 19 years behind bars. Win Tin was among the 9,002 prisoners released. Only a handful of those released were political detainees. Other political prisoners released included well-known writer Aung Soe Myint, and four members of the opposition NLD - Khin Maung Swe, May Win Myint, Win Htein and Than Nyein. Win Tin, formerly editor of the influential newspaper Hanthawaddy, vice-chairman of the Writers’ Union, and an active participant in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, was arrested in 1989 and sentenced to 20 years on charges that included anti-government propaganda. Reports noted that around 2,000 political prisoners were still detained in various prisons in the country1.

    The Irrawaddy quoted Home Affairs Minister Maj.Gen. Maung Oo as stating at a meeting on July 6, 2008 that Myanmar’s military leaders know that they cannot stand alone in the world, but would react to each situation with a view to balancing their relations with the world’s superpowers. The report noted that Home Ministry officials were briefed on relations with the United States, China and Indonesia, as well as the regime’s policy toward the 2010 elections, the NLD and how the junta would react to future demonstrations. The document further quoted Maj.Gen. Maung Oo as telling officials that due to the global influence of the US and the West, Myanmar would continue to pursue “strong relations” with China, but this did not mean that the junta was following a pro-Beijing foreign policy. Maung Oo criticized the US for “using humanitarian issues and democracy as a policy to overthrow governments that it disliked.” He also accused the US for using the UN as part of a broader agenda to accuse the Myanmarese government of “crimes against humanity.” He charged that the UN and associate international non-governmental organizations were “puppets” of the US2.