In the month in which the Burmese national census is set to begin, another count is taking place. A list comprising every political prisoner arrested in Burma since the 1962 military takeover is being compiled by three NGOs – the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-B), Former Political Prisoners Society (FPPS) and the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (88GPOS).
Ye Aung, a member of the FPPS, said the list would take half a year to put together. The group began their task in January.
Ye Aung told DVB that the NGOs would be compiling evidence to confirm that each entrant to the list had indeed been imprisoned for political activity.
Kyaw Naing Oo is an activist collecting political prisoner profiles in Pegu Division. He said he has encountered many individuals who have been unwilling to recount their experiences — many due to trauma suffered in detention. For others unwilling to discuss their past, the fear of resurrecting the scrutiny of officials remains too great.
“Some former political prisoners were not willing to give their information due to concerns from the families, wanting to leave those memories behind, saying it will lead to nothing. Some were worried that appearing on the list would bring them suffering again if things were turned around,” said Kyaw Naing Oo.
The three organisations say they have uncovered numerous cases of suffering. They say the majority of political prisoners tallied have been affected by poor health and many have found it difficult to find work. Faced with these hardships, a large number of former political prisoners cannot now support their families.
Win Tin, patron of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and a former political prisoner, said that on completing the list, a major political force would be born in Burma.
“All political prisoners have their own political history,” he said. “Some may be NLD members, some may believe in political parties, and some may be from ethnic minorities – but nonetheless, bringing them together to some extent will help create a political force in the country which can provide a great deal of assistance for public interest works, the country’s politics and achieving political goals.”