Paying tribute to a Burmese legend

It was a mark of how respected and loved he was that thousands of people paid their final respects to one of Burma’s bravest and longest-serving pro-democracy fighters.

Win Tin passed away at Rangoon General Hospital on Monday, 21 April, from kidney failure.

Throughout Wednesday afternoon, throngs of people crowded the hall at Yay Way Cemetery in Rangoon where Win Tin’s body lay in repose.

A co-founder of the National League for Democracy (NLD) and close aide to Aung San Suu Kyi, Win Tin spent 19 years behind bars for his vehement opposition to military rule and for his writings.

Lying in a glass coffin, Win Tin was dressed in his iconic blue prison uniform – as if continuing his protest on behalf of all dissidents who remain behind bars.

Aung San Suu Kyi was among activists, politicians and ordinary citizens who paid their last respects to the former journalist and writer.

Outside, mourners crowded the streets carrying banners and wreaths.

A memorial ceremony was held at Rangoon University’s Judson Hall, where fellow former political prisoner, Min Ko Naing, praised Win Tin in a eulogy.

“The admirable thing about Win Tin is that he always had the honesty to admit when he didn’t know something and  had the patience to take his time and explain thoroughly what he did know to others,” said the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society member.

Mourners at the funeral wore blue shirts as a tribute to Win Tin – Burma’s longest serving political prisoner.

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NLD youth member Khin Lay said Win Tin was a “confidant” to the younger generation.

“We could always pour our heart out to him and he would listen and advise us,” she said.

“Now we are determined to work harder to achieve democracy, something he never got the chance to see.”

Outside the NLD headquarters in Rangoon, Win Tin’s supporters gathered for a moment of silence under his picture. NLD flags flew at half-mast.

Late in the afternoon, Win Tin’s body was moved to a wooden coffin with an NLD flag draped over it and taken to his final resting place.

Hundreds of mourners watched as Win Tin was laid to rest in a tomb draped in blue velvet.

For poet and songwriter, Ko Ye Lwin, Win Tin will remain undefeated.

“Win Tin was a truly an honest man. He courageously stood against injustice. He never gave up or allowed those who incarcerated him to be victorious. He was the undefeated,” he said.

Win Tin will be known as a man of extraordinary endurance and integrity, a straightforward speaker, and a true champion of democracy in Burma.

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