Khun Htun Oo
|Khun Htun Oo|
11 September 1943 |
|Alma mater||Rangoon University|
|Known for||Political prisoner
|Home town||Hsipaw, Shan State|
|Parents||Sar Kyar Zon (father)
Si Swe Joun (mother)
Khun Htun Oo (Burmese: ခွန်ထွန်းဦး, pronounced: [kʰʊ̀ɴ tʰʊ́ɴ ʔú]; born 11 September 1943; often written U Khun Htun Oo following Burmese honorifics) is a politician from Shan State, Burma (Myanmar) who was imprisoned for treason, defamation, and inciting dissatisfaction toward the government. His sentence was protested by numerous Western governments and the human rights group Amnesty International, which named him a prisoner of conscience.
Htun Oo is ethnically Shan, and was born in 1943 in Hsipaw in Shan State. He pursued a Bachelor of Laws at Rangoon University from 1965 to 1967 before serving as assistant to the Indonesian military attaché in Burma. Htun Oo went on to become "the most senior political representative of the Shan".
After pro-democracy, anti-government protests toppled Ne Win's military dictatorship in 1988, Htun Oo stood for the 1990 parliamentary elections at the head of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) party. His party gained 23 seats (220,835 votes), and within Shan State, finished ahead of even Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), which had won 59.9% of the vote nationwide. However, the military government annulled the results, the parliament never convened, and the generals continued to rule the country as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).
Activism, arrest, and trial
Eight years after the annulment of the election results, SNLD and 3 other ethnic parties worked on a coalition agreement with the NLD. This coalition urged the SPDC to negotiate with the NLD over human rights, but these efforts did not succeed, and Htun Oo's party ultimately urged politicians to boycott the SPDC's coming National Convention. In a 2002 interview with BBC News, he described his party's ultimate objective as "the establishment of a multi-party democratic system". That same year, he publicly protested the exclusion of Burma's ethnic minorities from Union Day celebrations.
Htun Oo's opposition to the government eventually led to his arrest. On 7 February 2005—Shan National Day—Htun Oo met several other politicians for a meal, over which they discussed the SPDC's plans for the coming national transition. He was arrested two days later on charges of "high treason" and "inciting disaffection towards the Government". The other leaders present at the meeting were arrested as well.
In November of that year, the group was tried in a closed trial at Insein Prison. Htun Oo was found guilty on all charges and sentenced to 93 years' imprisonment. Amnesty International criticized the trial as falling "far short of international fair trial standards", noting that the defendants were denied access to family and their own lawyers.
Imprisonment and international attention
From 2005 to 2011, Htun Oo was held in Putao prison in Kachin State. According to reports released from the prison, despite having diabetes and gout he received little medical attention, and was also suffering from swollen legs due to lack of exercise, as well as ischemic heart disease. Amnesty International reported that he also suffers from a peptic ulcer and arthritis. On 9 February 2010, the Democratic Voice of Burma reported that Htun Oo was "losing hair and weight," dropping from around 160 lbs. to around 120 lbs., and on 10 February 2011, that his health was "deteriorating".
Amnesty International named Htun Oo as a prisoner of conscience, and as of May 2011, continued to publicize his case. He was also made an honorary Italian citizen by the mayor of Monza on December 10, 2008. A 2010 United Nations draft resolution calling by name for the freedom of Htun Oo and other political prisoners was co-sponsored by Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Great Britain and the US. In March 2011, Htun Oo was awarded the Nationalities Hero prize by the United Nationalities Alliance, a group representing several minorities of Burma, for his "dedication and struggle for ethnic groups and national reconciliation".
Htun Oo was released on 13 January 2012 in a mass presidential pardon of political prisoners.
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- Europa Publications Staff, The Far East and Australasia, Routledge, 2003, p. 863.
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- "Shan leader ‘losing hair and weight’". Democratic Voice of Burma. 9 February 2010. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
- "Calls mount for Shan leader’s release". Democratic Voice of Burma. 10 February 2011. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
- "Myanmar, Unlock the Prison Doors!". Amnesty International. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
- Lalit K Jha (4 November 2010). "UN Draft Resolution Silent on Commission of Inquiry". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
- Myo Thant (31 March 2011). "Shan leader Khun Htun Oo awarded Nationalities Hero prize". mizzima.com. Retrieved 10 May 2011.
- "High-profile dissidents freed in Burma amnesty". BBC News. 13 January 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2012.