After serving nearly 10 years of a life sentence in Myanmar (Burma), prisoner of conscience and long-time AIUSA priority case Ma Khin Khin Leh was freed this past weekend along with 18 others widely considered to be political prisoners.
Ma Khin Khin Leh, a school teacher and young mother, had been serving a life sentence because her husband, a student activist, helped plan a demonstration to be held in Bago on July 19, 1999, to protest government policies and to show support for the National League for Democracy (NLD), a pro-democracy political party that sought to counter the military junta that had reigned over Myanmar since 1962. Days before the demonstration was to take place, authorities moved to prevent it. Failing to find her husband, security agents arrested Ma Khin Khin Leh and the couple’s three-year-old daughter. Although her daughter was released after spending five days in detention, Ma Khin Khin Leh, then age 33, was eventually transferred to Insein Prison. In December 1999, the Insein Special Court sentenced her to life imprisonment under vaguely-worded security legislation. Even by the normally harsh standards of “justice” meted out by Myanmar’s military government, the life sentence given to Ma Khin Khin Leh was extreme.
Other AI sections and AIUSA have worked for Ma Khin Khin Leh’s release for many years; first as the subject of an Action File for local group campaigning efforts, as the AIUSA Midwest Region’s Special Focus Case from 2005 until recently and finally as one of AIUSA’s Priority Cases in tandem with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
We do not know and perhaps never will know why Ma Khin Khin Leh was chosen to be one of those released, but we are overjoyed that she is finally free, and hope that she will quickly recover from the illness and trauma of her time in prison.