Sunday, 17 November 2019

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Freed Nyi Nyi Aung thanks fiancé

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) - Burmese American citizen and political prisoner Nyi Nyi Aung was released from jail today in Rangoon and immediately deported to the United States. Following his release he was sent to Bangkok from where he will catch a flight back to Washington DC tomorrow. He spoke briefly on the telephone with Mizzima from Bangkok airport.

The 88' generation student leader was arrested last September on arrival at Rangoon's International Airport. Nyi Nyi Aung told Mizzima he was very happy to be free and wished to thank the many Burma activists around the world, who pushed for his release. He was particularly grateful for the efforts of his fiancé Wa Wa Kyaw, telling Mizzima "we will get married very soon."     

Once jailed, Nyi Nyi Aung became the fifth member of his family to be imprisoned by junta authorities; his mother, sister and two cousins are all serving lengthy prison sentences for their involvement in Burma's democracy movement. 

Nyi Nyi Aung's mother is gravely ill and it is widely believed her son's return to Burma was a drastic attempt to see her.  Nyi Nyi Aung told Mizzima that he heard his mother is well now but did not know details about her condition.

Despite the fact that the name in his US passport is his birth name Kyaw Zaw Lwin and not Nyi Nyi Aung, his nom de guerre that he is known publicly by, Burmese authorities were clearly able to figure out who he was when he arrived in Rangoon.  Nyi Nyi Aung told Mizzima he wasn’t sure exactly how the regime identified him. "It could be several things; I can't figure it all out right now" he said.  He does believe that the regime had his picture before he entered Burma. 

Following Nyi Nyi Aung's arrest Burma's state owned media declared that he was a key figure in a terrorist bomb plot aimed to destabilize Burma that was organized and funded by groups in exile.  Despite the lurid claims of the state-owned New Light of Myanmar and MRTV, Nyi Nyi Aung was convicted on considerably less serious charges, failing to renounce his Burmese citizenship when he became an American citizen, failing to declare currency he had on him when he arrived in Burma (thus possessing illegal currency) and possessing a forged Burmese ID card. The currency charge came despite the fact that he was arrested before he even went through airport customs, where one is supposed to declare the funds they have with them.   

When American Embassy officials eventually saw Nyi Nyi Aung weeks after his arrest, there were clear signs that the 40 year old was beaten up and tortured by his jailers.    

Nyi Nyi Aung's arrest last year followed the arrest and subsequent release of an American citizen John Yettaw, who sneaked into Aung San Suu Kyi's home uninvited, resulting in the NLD leader violating the terms of her house arrest. Yettaw's unwanted visit resulted in a longer jail sentence for the world's most famous political prisoner. After what many observers declared a show trail, Yettaw was released from jail following the intervention of US Senator Jim Webb, who met Burma's dictator Than Shwe to secure the release of his fellow Vietnam War veteran. 

While the US government was seen to be doing everything possible to obtain freedom for Yettaw, the release of Nyi Nyi Aung appeared to be far less of a priority, at least for his comrades in the movement.  Despite the fact that Nyi Nyi Aung's trial was conducted in a ridiculous and clearly biased manner. 

Last month in a stinging Op Ed published in the prestigious Wall Street Journal, Nyi Nyi Aung's fiancé Wa Wa Kyaw criticized US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for failing to publicly call for Nyi Nyi Aung's release when she had earlier called for Yettaw's release. 

His fiancé's feelings were echoed by many friends and supporters of Nyi Nyi Aung who were shocked that the Obama administration wouldn't make the same effort for Nyi Nyi Aung as they had for Yettaw, a man who many felt had done Aung San Suu Kyi a grave injustice by breaking into her home. 

In a press release issued shortly after his release today, Nyi Nyi Aung's US lawyer Jared Genser and the human rights group he is president of Freedom Now, issued the following statement:  “We’re thrilled that Nyi Nyi is returning to the United States and will be reunited with his fiancé shortly. While we are pleased the junta has released him, he never should have been imprisoned in the first place."  Genser who is also the US based attorney for Aung San Suu Kyi added, "on this day of thanksgiving for one family, it must not be forgotten there are 2,100 other Burmese political prisoners including National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.” 


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