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Win Tin affirms commitment to ethnic unity

Feb 18, 2009 (DVB), Senior National League for Democracy member and former political prisoner Win Tin emphasised the party's commitment to ethnic nationality issues in an interview with DVB this week.

Win Tin spoke to DVB soon after Union Day, which commemorates the signing in 1947 of the Panglong agreement uniting Burmans and other ethnic nationalities in their struggle for independence.

He also spoke about the NLD's recent statement calling for parliament to be convened, the release of political prisoners and the reopening of NLD offices.

DVB: Why did you decide to make the demand to convene a people's parliament?

WT: "The demand has just not been made now. It is not just important now. It has always been important for us. That’s why we have been making the call for parliament constantly since the 1990 election. It has been 19 years. Parliament has still not been dissolved. [The military] has not declared that it has been dissolved to this day. What they are trying to do is not to recognise it or convene it and trying to override it with another election or parliament.

"A new parliament might emerge, but our demand is still valid. We have to demand it and it is necessary. The reason is, if they do not even recognise it and just walk over it, it won’t be a good moment in our history. In the future, nothing will be trusted. We are not putting the coming election on our agenda and we are not including it in our thinking. But I am worried that if they refuse to recognise the 1990 election , which they themselves organised , and if the 2010 is to be held, no one can say that this kind of terrible thing will not occur again. But as it is not our business, we don’t want to talk about it.

"But I want to say to other political parties which want to contest the election [, ] that they changed your parliament when it didn’t suit them before and if they want a parliament made up entirely of army officers this time, they might not substantiate the parliament in the same way as they didn’t in 1990."

DVB: You have also demanded the release of political prisoners. How significant is this for the country?

WT: "It is very, very important. You could say that the political prisoners are as important as the parliament. This is because many of those detained are elected members of parliament and leaders such as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, U Tin Oo, Khun Tun Oo, Min Ko Naing and monks. When you are in politics, you have to deal with political leaders. These leaders have to lead, rally and guide people or parties. They are imprisoning leaders of various organisations, not only of the NLD , and not for one or two years, but for many years, up to 100 , and this is not in accordance with the law. The issue is still very important. That’s why the convening of parliament is important and the release of political prisoners is important. We reported it to the international community. I said that a tangible result [of the United Nations' efforts in Burma] would be the release of political prisoners. The reason we include it in the statement is because it is very important. NLD youths are also carrying out a signature campaign for the release of all political prisoners.

DVB: What do you have to say about the cutting off of phone lines to the NLD headquarters?WT: "I was in prison for about 20 years and then I went to the NLD headquarters. Although I had heard on the news that there was oppression and restrictions I never thought that it would be that bad. It is amazing that in the whole of the headquarters there is not a single phone. All the township offices have been closed down. For me it is heart-breaking, it is such a shameful situation. The offices were closed ‘temporarily’ five years ago and they are still not open again. In this situation, we need to continue to demand. [The military authorities] are talking about democracy, but in reality, our party has only one room for its headquarters and we can’t do anything else."DVB: What do you want to say about ethnic nationalities on Union Day?WT: "If we want to sort out the problems of the country and head towards the future, the NLD totally accepts the fact that it won’t succeed without including ethnic nationalities. We don't just think that because of [Union] Day, we have always supported Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's stance on ethnic nationalities. We have been attentive to the unity of nationalities, their affairs and their political aspirations since the time of general Aung San’s Panglong treaty. We are still serious about the issue when we talk about it today. I have already understood and accepted that if we want to solve the problems of the country and the union, and carve out a path in the future, unless we include the issues and the desires of ethnic nationalities, nothing can happen. We must try to consolidate our union, not with slogans but with a spirit of unity and empathy."Interview by Aye Nai


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