International PEN is extremely concerned for the health of veteran journalist and pro-democracy activist Win Tin, who has been imprisoned for over 19 years and is one of the longest serving prisoners on PEN’s records. Reports suggest that his already poor health condition has worsened in the past few weeks. PEN considers the cumulative sentences of over 20 years against Win Tin to be in violation of his right to freedom of expression and association as protected by the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights. PEN therefore calls on the authorities to provide him with medical treatment and demands his immediate release on humanitarian grounds.

Background Information

Win Tin, aged 78, is suffering from acute asthma which is preventing him from sleeping and eating properly. PEN has long been concerned about Win Tin’s health. Throughout his detention he has suffered heart disease, dental problems and spondylitis (inflammation of the joints of the spine). In late June 2008, a relative visited Win Tin in prison and found him thin and weak. Earlier this year, on January 22, Win Tin had a hernia operation at Rangoon General Hospital.
Win Tin is the former editor-in-chief of Hanthawati, and was Vice President of the Journalist's and Writer's Association of Burma. He had also been a literary and arts critic and author of various articles critical of the authorities. He is a close confidante of the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and has been accused of encouraging her to enter politics. Aung San Suu Kyi, herself under house arrest for much of the past 20 years, has on many occasions appealed for Win Tin’s release. Win Tin is said to have consistently refused to sign a document disassociating himself from the NLD which would have secured his release.
Win Tin was arrested in July 1989 and originally sentenced to three years in prison for harboring an "offender for whom a warrant had been issued" – charges that were apparently fabricated. In 1992 he was sentenced to an additional 11 years in prison for a variety of offences linked to his opposition activities. In March 1996 he was among 21 Insein Prison detainees who were tried for having published a clandestine magazine inside the prison and possessing radio sets. For this he received another seven years, bringing the total sentence to 20 years. He is not due to be freed until July 2009.

Win Tin was awarded UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Award in 2000 and the World Association of Newspaper’s Golden Pen of Freedom Award in 2001. He is an Honorary Member of the Hong Kong (English) and Japan centers of International PEN.

Write A Letter

  •  Expressing alarm at the reports of the deteriorating health of Win Tin and urging the authorities to provide him with all necessary medical treatment immediately;
  • Pointing out that Win Tin was convicted for his legitimate opposition activities, in violation to the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which specifically protects the right to freedom of expression and association;
  • Urging that Win Tin be released immediately and unconditionally.

Send Your Letter To

Chairman, State Peace and Development Council
Senior General Than Shwe
c/o Ministry of Defence
Union of Myanmar

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Nyan Win
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Union of Myanmar

Volunteers may consider writing letters to their national newspapers highlighting Win Tin’s case to illustrate the many years of repression in Myanmar.