Scotland: MSPs and Scottish footballers team up to score a goal for human rights

Mark Ballard, Kenny MacAskill, Frank McAveety and Tommy Sheridan, Members of the Scottish Parliament, will lead a team in a friendly football match against a team of Burmese exiles at 9.30am today (Monday 2nd May) to kick off Scotland United, Amnesty International Scotland’s annual five-a-side football fundraising tournament.

Joining the MSPs and Burmese players on the field at the World of Football, Edinburgh throughout the day will be organisations such as Oxfam in Scotland, Falkirk Council UNISON, Scottish Equitable and Holyrood High School, who will compete for the Amnesty Cup.

By participating in the tournament, players will be showing particular support for Burmese prisoner of conscience Thet Win Aung, a 32-year-old avid football fan and prisoner of conscience in Burma.

Thet Win Aung is one of 1,300 political prisoners in Burma. He is currently serving out a 59- year sentence for attempting to establish a students’ union in his country and for peacefully protesting about the human rights situation.

Green MSP Mark Ballard highlights his party’s concern for the human rights situation in Burma, “I'm horrified by what's happened to Thet Win Aung - sentenced to a lifetime in jail for speaking out against the Dictatorship that rules his country. After an unfair trial Thet Win Aung is suffering inhumane conditions in prison, without proper access to healthcare - all for setting up a student union.

"The Scottish Greens support all those who are fighting for democracy and basic human rights in Burma. The football match should be a great event, and along with the decision to give the leading Burmese dissident Aung San Su Kyi the freedom of my hometown of Edinburgh, can play an important part in the international campaign to raise awareness of the human rights crisis in Burma.”

Following the friendly match, which marks the beginning of the tournament, participating MSPs and Burmese team members will sign a giant, colourful banner of Thet Win Aung, demanding his immediate and unconditional release. The banner will be sent to the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, currently based in Thailand.

Director of the Free Burma Coalition UK Ko Aung, has described Thet Win Aung as a “courageous, gentle, friendly and self-motivated individual”. His five-a-side teammate Pho Kyaw expresses his support for Scotland United, “We, the exiled Burmese youth come to Edinburgh on behalf of the people of Burma, to support the kind efforts of Scotland United in highlighting the plight of student leader Thet Win Aung and other political prisoners who have been unjustly and illegally detained by Burma’s military junta, State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), for their political beliefs.

We are honoured to inaugurate the tournament by playing a five-a-side football match against a team of Members of Scottish Parliament (MSPs) who support the Burmese people’s struggle for human rights and democracy. Historically speaking, football or soccer was introduced to Burma by a British colonial official and scholar Sir George Scott in the 19th century. And football is still very popular among the people of Burma.

We are sure that the event will be a great morale raising action from MSPs and Amnesty International Scotland for the Burmese political prisoners who have been incarcerated in prison cells throughout Burma. It really, really means a lot to them.”
Scotland United 2005 will help raise funds for Amnesty International’s work to protect individuals around the world wherever justice, freedom and truth are denied. Liz Walsh, Scotland Marketing

Officer for Amnesty International and Tournament organiser commented, “ In March we put out a call to football fans throughout Scotland to support fellow football enthusiast Thet Win Aung and demand for his immediate and unconditional release. We are delighted that over 200 footballers heeded that call and are here today vying for the Amnesty Cup and to demand justice for Thet Win Aung. Today is truly a day that Scotland can be proud of.”

Amnesty International Scotland expresses gratitude to World of Football, Fair Deal Trading Llp, Westwoods Health Club at Fettes, Odeon Cinema at Lothian Road, Glasgow Science Centre, AG Barr, Purely Scottish and Free Spirits for making the day a success.

Notes for Editors:

• World of Football is part of the Edinburgh Corn Exchange, 11 Newmarket Road, Edinburgh EH14 1RJ, 0131 443 0404
• You are invited to send a reporter/photographer/TV/radio crew along to cover this event
• 9.30am – Friendly match between MSPs and Burmese exile team
• 9.45am – match will be followed by photo call, where MSPs and Burmese team members will sign a giant banner of Thet Win Aung
• Games kick off at 10am with the final commencing at 16.30pm

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