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Oct 7, 2009 (DVB), A former Burmese political prisoner and current head of an exiled prisoner advocacy group has been named one of four people to receive a top international human rights award.
Bo Kyi, head of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma (AAPP) was today awarded the Alison Des Forges Defender Award for Extraordinary Activism by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The group said the award was attributed to "his heroic efforts to speak out against Burmese repression and to advocate on behalf of those who have dared to criticize the military junta."
Bo Kyi, along with other former political prisoners, formed the AAPP on the 23 March 2000, the 11th anniversary of the arrest of 88 Generation Students' leader, Min Ko Naing, who is now serving a 65 year sentence.
AAPP, based in Thailand's border town of Mae Sot, campaigns for all political prisoners in Burma, exposing the brutal treatment of political inmates and providing them with basic necessities such as food and medicine.
Earlier this year it ran a global petition campaign for the release of political prisoners gathering nearly 680,000 signatures.
Bo Kyi, who spent more than seven years in prison for his political activities, said he was honoured by the award, but stressed that "this award is not only for me, it is for all the people inside Burma fighting injustice".
The award is named after Alison De Forges, a senior advisor to the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, who was killed in a plane crash in February 2009.
The other recipients of the award were Ethiopian lawyer and activist, Daniel Bekele, Elena Milashina, reporter for Russia’s leading independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and Mathilde Muhindo, a women's rights activist working to stop sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Reporting by Joseph Allchin