Ma Khin Khin Leh was released from prison on Saturday, February 21. Her release follows an announcement by the Myanmar government that it would release 24 political prisoners. Ma Khin Khin Leh’s case was a focus of the AIUSA Global Write-a-thon last December. Over 7,000 AIUSA members wrote letters to the Burmese government on her behalf. In addition, AIUSA Group 48 has been collecting signatures to petition for Ma Khin Khin Leh’s release. Volunteers collected over 600 signatures at local concerts in Portland. The letters and petitions truly make a difference for the lives of individuals around the world.
A school teacher and young mother, Ma Khin Khin Leh, was serving a life sentence because her husband Kyaw Wunna tried to organize a peaceful demonstration in support of the National League for Democracy (NLD). Days before the demonstration was to take place, authorities moved to prevent it. The authorities could not find Kyaw Wunna so security agents arrested Ma Khin Khin Leh and the couple’s three-year-old daughter. Although her daughter was released after spending five days in detention, Ma Khin Khin Leh was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999 under vaguely-worded security legislation.
Of the other released political prisoners, there were nine Buddhist monks and one nun. Some were members of the NLD. These included Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, a MP-elect who had been in prison since 1990.
Another man, Zaw Naing Htwe, was released from a labour camp. Zaw Naing Htwe was sentenced to nine years in prison in December 2008 because he had received a letter from his elder brother, who was one of the imprisoned 88 Generation Students group leaders.
“There are still more than 2,100 political prisoners behind bars in Myanmar. Many of them are in poor health, partly as a result of harsh prison conditions,” said Donna Guest, Asia Pacific Deputy Director.
“While the release of these prisoners is welcome, the Myanmar government must release all other prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally.”