Win Tin allowed to leave Rangoon

Jan 19, 2010 (DVB), Renowned opposition politician Win Tin, who remains Burma's longest serving political prisoner, yesterday left Rangoon division for the first time since his release in September 2008.

After spending 19 years in prison, where he was tortured, held in a cell designed for military dogs and denied medical treatment, the 80-year-old former journalist was released but prohibited from leaving Burma's central Rangoon division.

Yesterday however he set out in a convoy that included other literary figures within the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party to attend the 100-year anniversary of the birth of the influential Burmese writer, Ludu U Hla, in Mandalay, nearly 400 miles north of Rangoon city.

"I don't know how this will go. I have my tickets booked and all. If I get stopped at the bus station, then so be it," he told DVB before leaving.

He said that apart from being stopped for questioning by police, who followed the group to the bus station and photocopied identification cards, everything was otherwise "smooth".

"[After being released] I travelled once to Kunchangon on a day trip and also to Hle Ku [in Rangoon division]. This is the first time I'm going on a long distance trip," he said.

"Government intelligence has been phoning me, asking questions for details of my trip," he added. "Hopefully I'm fit for it. I'm not in really good health; I get tired easily and find it difficult to catch a breath sometime. But I'm going on an express bus so I should be alright."

He was fitted with a pacemaker last August after complaining of a slow heartbeat, although remained a popular figure outside the gates of Rangoon's Insein prison during the trial of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Win Tin's prominent role in anti-junta activities both before and since his imprisonment has made him a leading figurehead for the opposition in Burma, and a popular point of contact for international media.

He was also put forward as a lawyer for Suu Kyi during her trial, but the court dismissed him on the grounds that he had served time in prison.

Reporting by Yee May Aung

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