DVB, 23 September 2008
Khin Maung Soe
DVB: I want to know the conditions of your release. How are you all released? Are there any strings attached or have you been released unconditionally?
UWT: The whole process of the release is conditional. More conditions are laid down for [releasing] political prisoners. Other prisoners were released on some conditions. But since I was not allowed to meet or talk to anyone, I don’t know what these conditions are.
But if I have to speak for me, I don’t accept [the conditions they set] on my release. I came out by protesting [their conditions]. Therefore, I am still wearing prison uniforms even though I am free. I don’t agree with the way they freed me. This [freeing me] is not a good sign, and I shouldn’t be optimistic.
DVB: Could you explain me the way they freed you?
It is like this. At about 6:30 in the morning, I was told “Collect your things, we are going to release you.” I was expecting this, but did not expect that they would release me on 401 (release upon signing to meet the conditions of release). When I was hospitalized two months ago, they came and asked me to sign this 401, but I refused to do so. I said “You don’t have to release me. I am not going to sign this, and I will never do so.”
But 401 wasn’t brought up this time. It can more probably be because of their talk with Gambari [during which they said] that they were going to release the aged and the sick. I called this “Old and cripple plan’, and I am not going to be part of this.
I wrote [in the prison] with a pen I smuggled. What I wrote was our request for ‘Su—Parliament—Dialogue’, i.e. to free Aung San Suu Kyi and all the political prisoners, to convene a parliament, and have a dialogue. I wrote these three things.
What I also told them [prison officers] was that I can’t cooperate with their ‘old and cripple plan’. My health is good, and I think it is good. And I will go on doing things that should be done.
I have been refusing to sign the 401 since 1990. I refused again in 1995, and 1998. I cannot accept [these conditions]. I told them that.
But during the last week, they told me “You must go”, and senior people, including directors, deputy director general, director general, they all came and told me “You have to go”, but I cannot [because he doesn’t agree with the conditions set in 401].
I told them that ‘I will only leave [if I am evicted] by force,’ but they couldn’t force me, telling “We won’t take you out [by force], but if you continue staying here, we can be put into jail. And we are not in a position to keep you [here]. The order is ‘Go’”.
Then I told them “I can’t accept that my name is included in today’s newspaper list of 9,002 [who were freed]. I will not leave, and I will remain status quo. But if you force me to go, I will go wearing this prison uniform. Prison longyi and prison shirt. And I won’t collect my things. You can collect them or set them on fire.” We were arguing from 6:30 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon.
DVB: How did they come to an agreement at 4?
UWT: They said “We have to take you out.” To make it short, they evicted me by force.
DVB: But in the newspaper, they said [prisoners were released] by government’s goodwill. And they used the term ‘good, moral behaviour’ meaning that those with that behaviour and hard-working were released. But you don’t agree [with that language], their statement.
UWT: No, I don’t. Because, not that I want to boast about me, I was what they said I was—for example, nice, generous, disciplined. But even without them saying it, I am who I am. And I cannot agree with the conditions they set.
My request was only ‘Su—Parliament—Dialogue’, to free Daw Su and all the political prisoners without any condition. I cannot accept anything else.
Because there are many people who are unlawfully arrested. They still remain in prisons. Zarganar and his lot are also inside. The remaining, Min Ko Naing and such are put on trial now. There are many. Min Ko Naing and others are [protesting] that they shouldn’t be handcuffed [at the trial].
Also there are may young people who are involved in politics but not prominent inside the prisons. Under these circumstances, I cannot accept the fact that only three or four politicians who signed to meet the conditions were released together with a hundred others, without [the government] carefully looking into releasing all the political prisoners.
DVB: So the way they released you is in a way, kicking you out of the prison.
UWT: Yes, it was like they took me out by force.
DVB: Does it mean that in you mind, do you think you are still in the prison?
UWT: Yes, I regard it that way. I also told them ‘it will be easy for you to arrest me again since I’m already in prison uniforms. Also, my house is just one block down from the prison. If you cross the main road, you can reach my house.’
Also I know that the whole Burma is behind bars. And these are not the new words. I have been saying this since twenty years ago. People are [in a way] inside the prison; they cannot speak or write freely.
That you and I can talk now is not because they released me, but because technology helps us enable to do so.
One is not allowed to write freely, speak freely, and do anything freely. That way, the whole country is behind bars, and even though I’m now outside, I will stay as if I’m still inside my cell.
But I’ll expand my space outside [by practicing what he believes].
DVB: So you will still fight for your ‘Su—Parliament—Dialogue’ call?
UWT: Yes, I’ll push only for that.
DVB: UN and Gambari have visited and they told the government to include everyone in 2010 election. What do you think of this?
UWT: I don’t know enough detail to comment on this. But what I can say is, this is my opinion, that I don’t know how other organizations are like. I don’t support National Convention.
Because, we accepted the concepts of National Convention. In 1989, we went to Pinlong Monument (to mark the unity of ethnic minorities and Burman), Ko Moe Thu, one behalf of Daw Su, read a paper, which stated that the Convention should be called by the parliament who got the mandate of the public.
But this convention was called by the Military Council, not under the parliamentary guidelines. And therefore we cannot accept the constitution, which was the outcome of this convention. But I don’t know some facts [about this constitution], since I haven’t read the detail. Even though I had access to newspaper, it was only over a year ago, and still [it was not delivered] regularly.
But generally, one reason that I couldn’t support this constitution is that according to number 6, i.e. military will play a leading role in national politics. That I cannot accept.
Because even though I have nothing to say about the military, and I look up on military personnel such as U Aung Shwe, U Lwin, U Tin Oo and many others. They are our leaders, and we can work together with people who will leave today’s army, for the army to take the leading role, and to have a one-third representation in the parliament, I cannot accept that.
You can leave the army. For example, Senior Than Shwe, deputy commander in chief, Maung Aye and General Shwe Mann, if they leave the army and come to join us or other democratic organizations, we welcome them all.
If they have good ideas and skills, we do not hesitate to give them leadership roles. If the mass agree, we welcome them to come and work in NLD.
Even though we do not have personal animosity and protest against [these] individuals, we cannot support the fact that the army itself wants to have a share of power, represent in the parliament, and dictate [against] the wish of the public.
But I won’t be able to tell you the details. I haven’t read them and I haven’t understood them [in detail]. And there are things I can’t get my head around. I need some explanations, but I can’t agree with the number 6 [constitution fact]. I don’t endorse national convention and constitution.
DVB: So how about election?
UWT: That I can’t support as well. Because election is going to be held by the rules drawn haphazardly, not according to the constitution. There is nothing satisfactory in there.