I was very sorry to hear the news today of the journalist U Win Tin’s death. He was Myanmar’s (Burma’s) longest serving political prisoner, and I had the honor of meeting him and speaking on a panel with him in Myanmar last month.
At dinner beforehand, he told me he was in solitary confinement for most of his 19 years in prison under Myanmar’s former military rule. Sometimes, when he tried to talk to other prisoners or share his food with them, he would get sent to the “dog house,” where dogs literally watched over him. He wasn’t allowed any books from 1989 to 2005, and he used to crush bricks to make chalk so he could write on his walls. When he was freed, he vowed to wear his blue prison shirt until Myanmar’s last political prisoner would be freed.
I asked how he got through it all, and he simply smiled.
He seemed so humble, he didn’t want to talk about himself on the panel. He had a local journalist speak about him instead.
I asked if he forgave his captors, and he said he forgave them, but he could not forget. And I cannot forget his calm, courage, and kind demeanor. Rest in peace, U Win Tin.