Veteran Burmese journalist Win Tin, an ally of Aung San Suu Kyi who spent 19 years in prison because of his fight against Myanmar’s military rule, died yesterday aged 84, his colleagues said.
Win Tin was a founder of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party and one of its leaders, but said he preferred being a journalist.
“I honestly think I was cut out just to be a journalist rather than a politician,” he said in 2010.
However, he was an activist journalist and refused to sit idly by as his people suffered under decades of dictatorship.
Win Tin took part in the nationwide protests in 1988 that were brutally crushed by the military and helped set up the NLD later that year.
“We’ve lost the most selfless and fearless politician,” said his close friend, Tha Ban, another veteran journalist and politician.
Win Tin did not always see eye to eye with Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released from house arrest in 2010 after a reformist government took power, ending almost 50 years of military rule.
He disagreed with her move to run in the 2012 by-elections that put the NLD in parliament, saying that the party’s participation lent authority to a government packed with former generals.
“So far as I know, he was the only leader of the NLD party who had the courage to disagree with Daw Suu openly in some issues,” a senior NLD member said, using an honorific to refer to Aung San Suu Kyi. “But he never betrayed her. He was a staunch supporter of amending the constitution so that it will pave the way for her to become president.”
Arrested on July 4, 1989, Win Tin was given three years of hard labor for his political activities. The regime repeatedly extended his term as he pursued his activism behind bars. He was Myanmar’s longest-serving political prisoner when freed on Sept. 23, 2008.
“My future plan is to keep fighting till the military dictatorship ends,” he said at the time.
Win Tin was admitted to hospital last month with internal bleeding and died of apparent kidney failure. The NLD is arranging his funeral for tomorrow.