February 9, 2010
Burmese-American Awaits Verdict in Case Myanmar
On his fifth trip back, in September, he was arrested. On Wednesday, a court in
The case comes at an awkward time for the
But beyond the politics of the case is the personal journey of Mr. Nyi Nyi Aung.
At the time of
But he was restless, said his fiancée, Wa Wa Kyaw. “He really, really wants to do everything for freedom and democracy in
Mr. Nyi Nyi Aung, who was born as Kyaw Zaw Lwin, shuttled between
Each time, he obtained a visa from
“If any of us had known he was returning, we would have stopped him,” said Aung Din, an acquaintance who is the executive director of the United States Campaign for Burma in Washington, a group that promotes the end of military rule in
Mr. Nyi Nyi Aung had kept his trip secret, even from his fiancée. The few he had told tried to dissuade him, friends say. They speculated that he was hoping to visit his mother, Daw San San Tin, a political prisoner who has thyroid cancer. She is serving five years in a remote prison in central
“He felt guilty for his mother’s arrest,” said Bo Kyi, co-founder of Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a group that tracks the plight of jailed dissidents in
The family had no involvement in politics before helping organize the 1988 uprising, said Mr. Nyi Nyi Aung’s only sibling, Ko Ko Aung. But for that, and further activism, they have paid dearly. Mr. Ko Ko Aung is in exile in
Lawyers for Mr. Nyi Nyi Aung rejected the charges against him. They said that he did not have a forged identity card, that he was arrested before clearing customs and thus never had the opportunity to declare any foreign currency, and that the Myanmar Embassy in Washington never instructed Mr. Nyi Nyi Aung to renounce his Myanmar citizenship.
In December, 53 members of Congress sent a letter to the leader of
Members of Congress and the consular affairs section of the State Department have been doing a “wonderful job” pressing for his release, said Ms. Wa Wa Kyaw, who works as a nurse in
Human rights campaigners say
“Activists are frustrated by the lack of noise from the
“We’ve been following his case very closely,” Richard Mei, a spokesman for the United States Embassy in Yangon, said Saturday in a telephone interview.
Reading from a prepared statement, he said, “The United States is working through diplomatic channels to achieve an overall positive outcome to the case.”
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs