May 21, 2008 (DVB), The European Bar Human Rights Institute announced on Monday that it would confer the Ludovic-Trarieux Human Rights Award 2008 on Burmese lawyer U Aye Myint.
The selection team consisting of 21 lawyers from various countries in Europe chose U Aye Myint to receive the prize out of 12 nominees from China, Vietnam, Russia, Zimbabwe, Palestine, Ethiopia and Burma. The Chairperson of the Institute said the award would be conferred on U Aye Myint to honour his work as a lawyer defending the social and economic rights of his fellow citizens.
U Aye Myint told DVB in an interview that he was grateful and much encouraged by the Institute's announcement to continue his struggle for the people of Burma who have lost their rights under the military rule.
DVB: Now that you have been chosen for Ludovic-Trarieux Human Rights Award 2008, what will be your next plan?
AM: Well, I have decided to continue my struggle for the truth until I die. I will fight any government or individual acting against the law.
DVB: What have you been doing?
AM: At the moment, I am collecting cash donations and old clothes in Bago for cyclone victims in Irrawaddy division. Yesterday, my colleagues and I rented a car with our own money, which cost 30,000 kyat, and went to Phaya and Sandawthwin roads in Bago to collect aid. We were able to collect over 760,000 kyat and about 35 bags of old clothes in an hour or so.
DVB: You will receive 7500 Euros for this human rights award. What are you going to do with that money?
AM: If I receive the money, I will dedicate it to the benefit of the people. I won't spend it on my family. But I doubt that I will be able to receive it because of the brutal regime. With or without that money, I will continue my struggle until I die. I am just grateful to be a recipient of the award.
DVB: We have heard that you were chosen for this award based on your work on forced labour cases. How is the forced labour situation now? Are you still helping?
AM: The International Labour Organisation office rang me yesterday to tell me about their current investigation in Nyaunglaypin township. There was a case where Light Infantry Battalion-38 made U Kalar of Ye Kyaw village tract do a night guard duty but he was later found dead with wounds from beating. The ILO also informed me about their investigation in Taung Ngu on 21 May regarding my case. I was detained in Taung Ngu for 16 days for taking photographs at a beauty contest held in front of Brigade No. 77. I was questioned for three days and during that time I was handcuffed, my head was covered by a cloth and I wasn't given any food. ILO is going to investigate that. It is the first time that the regime has allowed the ILO local representative to carry out further investigations on the ground. I am very surprised.
Apart from working on relief efforts for cyclone victims, I am helping farmers to get fair compensated because they are facing many hardships too.
DVB: How many legal cases have you worked on for citizens so far?
AM: Over 1300 cases.
DVB: Is there anything you want to say to encourage human rights defenders in Burma, who have been working so hard under the regime's repression and restrictions?
AM: The struggle for justice will continue. I want the oppressed in Burma to know that our victory will come soon. We have more people to fight against the unjust government so don't feel down! I also want the military regime know that we won't accept any unjust government. I warn the regime to be very careful as even the weather is pressing them now!
Lawyer U Aye Myint was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2003 for his connections with the ILO and Federation of Trade Unions (Burma) in exile, and he has since been jailed many times. His lawyer's licence was seized by the authorities and has still not been reinstated.
Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew