West hails Myanmar, but dissidents await freedom
YANGON WHILE the West lauds Myanmar for its steps towards democracy and starts to roll back sanctions, hundreds of political prisoners languishing in prison are still waiting to hear their fate.
Their families hope they will not become the forgotten victims of decades of authoritarian rule in the rush to reward the new quasi-civilian government for its sweeping political reforms.
Freedom has not yet come for Aye Aung, who was arrested in 1998 and sentenced to 59 years in jail on charges including violating the emergency act as well as illegally printing and distributing leaflets.
His sentence has since been reduced to 29 years, but he was not among those to walk free in a major prisoner amnesty in January, to the dismay of his elderly parents.
“We truly expected his release,” his father Thaung Sein told at his Yangon home, where a photo of a laughing Aye Aung playing a guitar hangs alongside another of him receiving an essay prize from opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
“It was really painful. His mother almost collapsed when she heard, and she wept. As you know, so many people were released in the January amnesty.
They didn’t give any reason for not including him. My son also said he had no idea why he was not released yet, the 60-year-old said.
“I felt so sad,” added his mother San Myint, her eyes filling with tears. Amnesty International considers Aye Aung, now 36, to be a “prisoner of conscience” who was detained because of peaceful activities such as distributing leaflets and organising student demonstrations.
His parents last visited him in March at Kalay prison in northwest Sagaing Division.He has haemorrhoids and a gastric problem.