Summary and Current Status
Khin Zaw Win, a dentist and prodemocracy activist from Myanmar, was one of more than 200 political prisoners released from jails in Myanmar on July 6, 2005. It is not yet known whether or not his release was conditional. Dr. Khin had been in prison since July 1994 and served 10 years of a 15-year prison sentence for peacefully criticizing the Myanmar government. He was considered by Amnesty International to be a prisoner of conscience. His case was one of only two political prisoners for whom UNESCO issued a public appeal.
Dr. Khin is a 55-year-old dentist. During the years prior to his arrest he reportedly had close links to the opposition National League for Democracy and spoke at conferences abroad about the political deadlock in Myanmar and the need for peaceful reform there. We do not know at which point Dr. Khin left dentistry, but from 1991 to 1993 he worked for UNICEF. In 1993 he received a scholarship from the government of Singapore to study for a Master’s degree in public policy at the University of Singapore. It is our understanding that his thesis topic was related to the political situation in Myanmar.
Dr. Khin reportedly returned to Myanmar briefly in 1994 to conduct academic research for his thesis. On July 4, 1994, he was arrested at Yangon International Airport while boarding a flight to Singapore to continue his studies. It is believed that, at the time of his arrest, he was carrying documents related to the Myanmar opposition movement. Dr. Khin was charged with “spreading or intending to spread false information in the knowledge that it was false,” “belonging to or having links with an illegal organization,” and “possessing or consulting State secrets.” Following a trial that failed to meet international fair trial standards, he was convicted in October 1994 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. It is our understanding that Dr. Khin was held under harsh conditions of confinement throughout his imprisonment and that his health suffered considerably. In particular, in November 1995, he was accused of attempting to send information about poor prison conditions to the United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar. As punishment, he reportedly was held for many months in a tiny cell meant to hold military dogs, forced to sleep on concrete floors without any bedding, and denied all family visits. In 1997 he was transferred to a prison far from his home and family and remained there until his release.