A former aide to Myanmar’s detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from prison Thursday after 14 years behind bars in the military-led country.
An official confirmed the release of Win Htein and said he will be brought from the prison in northern Myanmar to Yangon, where his family lives. The official spoke anonymously because he was not authorised to talk to the media.
“Win Htein was released today from Kathar prison. I am very happy for his freedom, but he was released because his detention period was up,” said Nyan Win, a spokesman from Suu Kyi’s now-disbanded National League for Democracy.
Win Htein, 68, had been serving a 14-year sentence on charges of providing false information to the foreign press, according to the US Campaign for Burma, which lobbies against aid to the military regime.
Win Htein was released briefly in 2008 during an amnesty, but was re-arrested 17 hours later without explanation.
In that brief period of freedom, he gave an interview to the Democratic Voice of Burma, a Norway-based shortwave radio station and website that is run by exiled Myanmar dissidents.
He said he could not accept a new constitution that allotted 25 percent of seats in both houses of parliament to the military and empowered the president to transfer legislative, executive and judicial powers to the military’s commander in chief for a year if a state of emergency arose.
“If we oppose or go against the constitution, we will be sent back to prison,” he said.
A former army officer, Win Htein joined Suu Kyi’s party when it was formed in 1988 and served as a personal assistant and close aide to Suu Kyi and her deputy, Tin Oo.
The ruling junta has called for the first polls in two decades to be held later this year, though no date has yet been set. Critics have dismissed the election as a sham designed to cement nearly 50 years of military rule in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
Suu Kyi has been held under house arrest by the military government for about 14 of the past 20 years. Her party was disbanded after refusing to register for the elections by a May 6 deadline.