My wife, in prison for protesting

In March, Phyoe Phyoe Aung was arrested and imprisoned for helping to organise student protests in Burma. Just this week, her husband Lin Htet Naing was also imprisoned, after nearly eight months in hiding, for his part in organising the protests.

Before he was detained, Lin Htet Naing wrote this blog about his wife.

My favourite day is 11 April 2007. It’s the day we fell in love. I love my wife because she is simple, honest and very kind to me. I think she loves me because I am a little bit bad! We just want a sweet home and a family together.

I met her at a student book class in 2006. I thought she looked like a boy. And she wasn’t afraid of anyone. She was always debating with our classmates, and talking about why globalization is good.

Lin Htet Naing and Phyoe Phyoe Aung on their wedding day, 2014 © BayBay

Phyoe Phyoe Aung has grown up with politics and activism. When she was 10 months old, her father Ne Win was arrested after the 1988 uprising, a student protest that was crushed by the military regime. She was 16 when he was released.

I am very proud of her. She’s the Secretary General of the All Burma Federation Student Union. It’s an important union in our country’s history because it led the call for independence and democracy. That’s why we helped to re-establish it in 2007.

We had to work in secret, because it was illegal to be a member of the union at that time. We took part in the Saffron Revolution, to protest against the rise in commodity prices. But then we were both arrested, and were in jail for more than three years.

Social justice campaigner

Phyoe Phyoe Aung

Phyoe Phyoe Aung at her court hearing in March this year © Private

In 2014, students from around the country called a meeting about the new National Education Law, which we believe limits academic freedom. She was elected as one of the people to help coordinate action. Earlier this year, she helped to organize a march across the country to protest against the law. Nearly 1,000 people took to the streets, including more than 300 students.

The protestors’ slogans were: “We need democratic education” and “We don’t want a centralised education system”. But when they got near Yangon, the police surrounded them and Phyoe Phyoe Aung was arrested.

I was so angry at the government

We expected it might happen. We had tried to negotiate about the new law with the government, but when that didn’t work we thought it might end badly. She was prepared – she had a mobile phone, some money and a back pack with some food and medicine.

I felt so sad when I heard. I cried because I couldn’t defend her and I couldn’t be with her. And I was so angry at the government. I miss her now.

In Yangon University compound, just before they got married in 2014 © Nay Naing

I have told her to take care of her health and be strong. I tell her I will try my best to release her as soon as possible.

But the authorities have no tolerance for student activists. They put pressure on universities and professors to monitor them and exclude them from classes. And they put pressure on parents, too. Then, if students still protest in public, the police will arrest them under Article 18 of our law, which bans unauthorised protest.

Prison is not the answer

Now, my wife faces a lengthy trial. She’s very frustrated. They are questioning 47 different defendants in turn, but they still haven’t finished the first person. If it carries on like this, it will take more than three years to get through the whole trial. And if she is sentenced, she could go to jail for more than nine years.

Today, most people in Burma are just interested in the general election. They have forgotten about political prisoners like my wife. That’s why we need to keep the pressure on the government, and tell people what is happening.

My message for you and Amnesty supporters is to please say loudly to President Thein Sein and his government: “Prison is not the answer for the people who want change.”

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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