On Saturday 24 February, 24 political prisoners amongst 6,313 prisoners were released in Myanmar. One of them was Ma Khin Khin Leh.
Ma Khin Khin Leh was a prisoner of conscience. A school teacher and mother, she was imprisoned at the age of 33 after the authorities could not find her politically-active husband who was planning a peaceful political march. Ma Khin Khin Leh was given a life sentence in 1999 under vaguely-worded security legislation. Even by the harsh standards of justice used by Myanmar's military government, her life sentence was extreme. She suffered form a lung problem, arthritis, and dysentery while in prison. AI had been for a long time very concerned for her safety and wellbeing.
WHAT HAS AIA DONE FOR MA KHIN KHIN LEH?
As an AI section, we have worked for Ma Khin Khin Leh since August 2004. Our consistent work has been maintained over the years due to the diligence and commitment of five local AIA groups - Hornsby, Bedigo, Boroondara, West Hobart and Launceston. Thank you to these groups - to work for an individual who is serving a life sentence in Myanmar is a challenge in itself.
In the second half of 2008, a part of the new way of working via the IAR Program, the case of Ma Khin Khin Leh was highlighted by AIA via diplomatic representation and by taking to the streets. The Field Marketing team and AIA activists spoke to thousands of people on the streets about Ma Khin Khin Leh and asked to sign postcards targeting Senior General Than Shwe. AIA also shared the ideas and materials with other AIA sections.
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?
It is not clear why Ma Khin Khin Leh was released. It is suggested that recent and forthcoming international scrutiny of Myanmar were the probable causes. With tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of people detained in Myanmar, to have Ma Khin Khin Leh be one of the few political prisoners released indicates that our work plays an ongoing role in freeing prisoners of conscience in Myanmar. This good news comes on the heels of the September 2008 release of seven prisoners of conscience from amongst 9,000 prisoners released, including U Win Tin, Dr Than Nyein, Dr Daw May Win Myint which AIA had taken up work for.
AIA will continue to develop and implement its work for AI cases via the Individuals at Risk (IAR) Program. We are currently building up a IAR Portfolio of cases. AIA groups will be asked if they would like to register to work for some of the cases in the IAR Portfolio via the new activism technique called Group Casefiles.
Thanks to everyone who has contributed to these success to date.
(Activism Coordinator/Individuals at Risk Program)