Burmese dissident keen to keep prison shirt

For almost two decades in Burma’s notorious Insein Prison, Win Tin wore the blue shirt issued to all inmates. He kept it after his release in 2008 out of solidarity with other political prisoners who remained in jail.

Now, the police have said they want it back, but Win Tin is refusing.

“So long as there are political prisoners here, I feel that I myself am still in jail, so I will wear the blue shirt,” he said yesterday, wearing a copy of the original.

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Win Tin, 83, was imprisoned after helping found the National League for Democracy (NLD) with Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the fight against military rule in Burma and spent 15 years under house arrest. She and other NLD members now sit in parliament.

The current president, Thein Sein, was a general and a member of the junta, but he heads a quasi-civilian government that has embarked on a series of reforms over the past two years, including the release of hundreds of political prisoners.

Not good enough, says Win Tin, a celebrated journalist.

Repression persists, he says, and the shirt is symbolic of his resistance. So when an policeman from Insein asked him to return the shirt, saying it was state property, he declined.