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Amnesty Granted to Myanmarese Physician after 18 Years in Prison
February 23, 2009

Zaw Myint Maung

On February 21, 2009, Zaw Myint Maung, a physician in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) was granted amnesty for good conduct and unexpectedly released from prison, where he had been held since 1990. His son told the CHR that he had spoken with his father by telephone. Following a 24-hour train ride from the prison to the family’s home in Amarapura, Zaw Myint Maung was reunited with his wife and daughter. “To the CHR,” the son said, “I can only say the words ‘thank you.’”

Zaw Myint Maung was one of 6,313 prisoners released last weekend, reportedly for good conduct, in an amnesty by the Myanmarese government. Of those prisoners released, only 24 were political prisoners. To the best of our knowledge, Zaw Myint Maung was the only longstanding prisoner to be included in the amnesty. It would appear that the attention brought to his case in recent months by the CHR and members of the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies may well have contributed to the inclusion of his case in the amnesty. The large-scale releases came shortly after a visit to Myanmar by U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana.

Zaw Myint Maung, age 58, was arrested in November 1990 shortly after his election as a member of parliament on the slate of the main opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. After a summary trial that failed to meet international standards for fairness, he was convicted of high treason for his peaceful political activities and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment. Amnesty International considered him to be a prisoner of conscience.

In 1996, while still imprisoned, Zaw Myint Maung was tried and given an additional 12-year sentence for “disseminating or intending to disseminate information that is ‘false.’” Again, the charge against him stemmed from peaceful activities promulgated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Myanmarese authorities alleged that Zaw Myint Maung had helped to produce two handwritten “magazines” with poems, articles, illustrations, and cartoons and had in his possession a letter addressed to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar Professor Yozo Yokota, which contained information on human rights violations in the prison where he was being held, including torture and ill-treatment, poor conditions of confinement, and inadequate access to medical care.

Please see Zaw Myint Maung’s case summary for additional information.

(Photo Credit: Copyright © 1998-2009, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036)