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Beyond the life sentence: Imprisoning the revolutionary souls

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Message Zaw Nay Aung

Burma’s leading pro-democracy activists were charged the heaviest sentences of up to 65 years imprisonment. All the 65 years terms go for the members of 88 Generation Students group who have been active since 1988 country wide uprising and took the front roles again in 2007 Saffron Revolution.

Now, most of them are in their 40s and if they have to serve the full sentences, even their souls would have to serve behind bars after they have gone. Unless they live for more than 120 years old, their revolutionary souls would not be freed. Yet, would the regime rule the country to eternity? From 14 to 23 members of 88 Generation Students group were given the harshest 65 years imprisonment while other activists were charged different sentences range from 6 years to 20 years.

When someone around the age of 45-50 is sentenced for 65 years, it is even beyond the life sentence. Nevertheless, the revolutionary spirit of these activists will never be beaten even if they are sentenced to death penalty.

Their love for freedom, rights and justice will never be faded away. In Burma’s prisons, when dissidents are imprisoned, they have to go through the hellish days and nights of torture, malnutrition, medical negligence and deadly diseases such as malaria and HIV.

The death penalty is not necessary for the activists as the prisoners could die at any point during their terms due to these consequences. Many have died in the torture chambers during the interrogation when some of them died in the labour camps following the excessive forced labour without healthy diets.

The medical negligence such as reusing the syringes and needles without proper disinfection caused the prisoners communicating the deadly disease such as HIV. There were instances as some political prisoners were intentionally injected the deadly diseases by the regime’s agents and prison doctors.

Whether it is six months or sixty years sentence, all these political prisoners could lose their lives anytime.As nothing is permanent in this world, the ruling junta will surely be eliminated one day. However, that one day could only be brought to the near future through the efforts of everyone in this world who loves freedom and democracy.

It is the time for the world body, United Nations to take serious steps to stop further atrocities and inhumane activities of Burmese junta. Although the UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon called for the release of political prisoners including Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the number of political prisoners increased over the years.

The dissidents are monitored more closely, the security is tightened up and not only the activists are harassed and arrested, the lawyers representing the political detainees are arrested for advocating justice. The regime has shown the defiance against the UN and international community.Not only the United Nations but the international community must impose tougher measures against the regime. The regional countries must stop ignoring the junta’s brutality and favouring the business deals. It is the time for justice.

The collective action is needed to stop the regime’s extrajudicial killings. We all must stop the junta detaining the activists not only physically but their revolutionary souls.


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Zaw Nay Aung is director of London-based human rights advocacy and think tank, Burma Independence Advocates.
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