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Updated: July 16, 2010 20:16 IST

Released Myanmar prisoner to keep up struggle

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Win Htein, a former aide to Myanmar's detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, talks to journalists at his home on Friday in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: AP.
Win Htein, a former aide to Myanmar's detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, talks to journalists at his home on Friday in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: AP.

A pro—democracy advocate freed after 14 years in prison said on Friday he will help political prisoners as he continues his struggle against military rule in Myanmar.

Win Htein, 68, told reporters that he would participate in social activities arranged by the National League for Democracy party, especially to help political prisoners and their families. The party was recently forced by law to dissolve after failing to register for an election supposed to be held this year.

“I have no faith in the elections, and I was happy that the NLD had decided not to re—register,” said Mr. Win Htein. The junta has called for the first polls in two decades to be held this year, though no date has yet been set. Critics have dismissed the election as a sham designed to cement nearly 50 years of military rule in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

The NLD, the party of opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, won Myanmar’s last elections in 1990 by a landslide, but the military government refused to hand over power.

A former army officer, Mr. Win Htein joined Suu Kyi’s party when it was formed in 1988 and served as a personal assistant and close aide to Ms. Suu Kyi and her deputy, Tin Oo.

Mr. Win Htein served a 14—year sentence on charges of providing false information to the foreign press. He had previously served 5 1/2 years on another political charge. He was released on Thursday from Kathar prison, 800 kilometers north of Yangon, and was brought home to Yangon on Friday afternoon.

Speaking at his home, Mr. Win Htein, who looked well and seemed cheerful, said his time in prison had left him gastric problems, high blood pressure and migraines caused by spondylosis, degeneration of the spinal column.

Mr. Win Htein said he wanted to help political prisoners and their families “materially, morally and spiritually.”

He said he had seen many deaths in prison due to lack of medical care and poor nutrition. However, he thanked the prison doctor who was moved to Kathar prison a few years ago, saying that “since that doctor has arrived no prisoners had died in Kathar prison.”

Mr. Win Htein said he was in the same prison with other, younger political prisoners who remain defiant and committed to the democratic struggle.

Despite being forced to disband, the National League for Democracy says it will continue to have organized activities.

“Having a party signboard or not doesn’t matter because a political party can stand as long as it enjoys public support. The NLD enjoys public support immensely,” said Mr. Win Htein.

Mr. Win Htein said he had invested 20 years of his life in prison for his beliefs.

“I will continue to work for democracy and for the country. Democracy will one day prosper in the country. If I don’t see democracy in my lifetime, I will be happy if the next generation can enjoy democracy,” he said.

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