Meet Aung Khaing Min
“Growing up in Burma, human rights violations are a part of daily life...I know the sacrifice you pay for the pursuit of democracy in Burma. You pay with your freedom and sometimes your life." - Aung Khaing Min
Imagine living in a country that has been under the rule of brutal military regimes since the 1960s. Where criticising your government is grounds for arrest, torture and decades-long prison sentences handed down without judge or jury.
For Burmese political activist and former Prisoner of Conscience Aung Khaing Min, living under constant threat and harassment, and facing social exclusion and discrimination was all part of his daily life. Since the age of 14, Aung Khaing Min has been dedicated to the fight for human rights in Myanmar (Burma). But he has paid a heavy price for his activism – he has been unfairly imprisoned and tortured, lost the right to live in his home country, and forced to leave behind friends and family members still languishing in prison.
“At 14 years of age I was involved in the 1988 pro-democracy uprising and witnessed human rights violations committed by the military junta. It was then I realised my ultimate ambition was to become a human rights advocate and fight for human rights in my country,” says Aung Khaing Min.
After spending five years in brutal Insein Prison for his role in organising pro-democracy protests, Aung Khaing Min fled to the Thai/Burma border in 2003. He joined a community-based organisation called the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) set up by former political prisoners to raise awareness to the international community about prison conditions, arbitrary detention and other human rights violations in Myanmar.
“Leaving Burma was not easy – it was a hard choice to make. I have not seen my mother for seven years. My brother and sister-in-law are still in prison. Often I feel torn: I want to be in Burma, I want to be there for my family but I must work for my country.”
As part of Amnesty International’s Myanmar ‘Freedom’ campaign, Aung Khaing Min visited New Zealand to tell his story. From 10-20 October 2010, Aung Khaing Min toured the four main centres, giving a first-hand account of the personal struggles the people of Myanmar face. Aung Khaing Min also met with the New Zealand Government to ask what they are doing for the people of Myanmar.
On 13 October, the New Zealand Parliament passed a motion calling on Myanmar's authorities to guarantee the three freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and to immediately and unconditionally release of all political prisoners arrested for their peaceful opposition to the Government. See more here.
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“For the Burmese people, the long walk toward a free society is not finished, but we must keep walking, and we will arrive one day” – Aung Khaing Min.