Myanmar deports jailed Burmese-American activist

KyaemonMarch 18, 201016min880

Myanmar deports jailed Burmese-American activist | Reuters

Myanmar deports jailed Burmese-American activist

Thu Mar 18, 2010 8:05am EDT

(Reuters) – Army-ruled Myanmar deported a Burmese-American activist on Thursday after sentencing him last month to three years in prison for forgery and immigration offences.


Nyi Nyi Aung, a U.S. citizen, was sent home after serving five weeks of his sentence. The reason for his deportation, which was agreed by the junta on Wednesday, was not immediately known.

Nyi Nyi Aung, also known as Kyaw Zaw Lwin, was jailed on February 10 for carrying a fake identification card and undeclared foreign currency and for failing to renounce his Myanmar citizenship.

He was arrested at Yangon’s international airport in September and was accused of plotting unrest in the country. He had been to Myanmar five times as a U.S. national and planned to visit his mother, who has thyroid cancer and his cousin.

Both were imprisoned for their role in nationwide monk-led protests in 2007, the biggest challenge to military rule since a bloody pro-democracy uprising in 1988 that left an estimated 3,000 people dead.

Nyi Nyi Aung, who took part in the 1988 protests, fled to the United States in 1993 and was granted citizenship in 2002.

“In one way, I’m really happy but on the other side, all my friends and my family are still in prison. That’s my only message,” Nyi Nyi Aung told reporters at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. He plans to return to the United States on Friday.

It was the second time in seven months that a U.S. citizen has been deported from Myanmar having been convicted and imprisoned.

John Yettaw, whose uninvited stay at pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s home last May landed her in detention for another 18 months, was deported in August after serving only five days of a seven-year jail term for immigration and security breaches.


Myanmar plans to hold elections this year, which the junta has promised will be free, fair and inclusive, but the jailing of journalists and political activists for minor offences has continued unabated.

An estimated 2,100 “prisoners of conscience” remain in detention in Myanmar. The junta says no political prisoners are being held in the country, insisting all are criminals.

A new election law published last week said any citizen who has served time in prison would be barred from running in the polls, for which a date has not yet been set.

The United States said the barring of political prisoners from the election made a mockery of democracy, adding there was “no hope” that the polls could be credible.

Rights Group Freedom Now expressed satisfaction at Nyi Nyi Aung’s release but urged the United States to press the junta to release all political detainees in Myanmar.

“We’re absolutely thrilled he has been released and excited to know he will be going home,” the group’s lawyer, Beth Schwanke, said by telephone.

“However, we hope the United States will not forget the other 2,100 political prisoners.”

(Additional reporting by Aung Hla Tun, Writing and additional reporting by Martin Petty; Editing bySanjeev Miglani)


Junta frees Myanmar-American to deport him – Yahoo! News

YANGON, Myanmar – A U.S. citizen accused of subversion was released from prison in his native Myanmar and deported Thursday after serving part of a three-year prison sentence.

The aunt of Kyaw Zaw Lwin, also known as Nyi Nyi Aung, said he was released after 6 1/2 months in prison and taken to Yangon’s international airport for a flight to Thailand.

Khin Khin Swe said her nephew was accompanied to the airport by a U.S. consular official.

“We can confirm that Kyaw Zaw Lwin has been released from prison and has left the country,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. “We welcome that development.”

The 40-year-old was arrested Sept. 3 on arrival at the same airport. He was initially accused of plotting to stir up political unrest, which he denied.

He was sentenced in October for forging a national identity card, for possession of undeclared foreign currency, and for violating Myanmar’s so-called Resident Registration Act — under which he was accused of failing to renounce his Myanmar citizenship when becoming an American citizen and failure to inform authorities of his new address.

“He looks well and happy, though much thinner than before,” said Khin Khin Swe.

“I am very happy for him but I want families of other prisoners of conscience to be happy and hope that all will be released,” she said, adding that five of her relatives are in prison, including her son-in-law.

Myanmar‘s military government holds more than 2,000 political prisoners, according to the U.N. andindependent human rights organizations. The most prominent is opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The 1991 Nobel peace laureate has been detained for about 14 of the last 20 years, and is currently underhouse arrest, from which she is due to be released in November.

Kyaw Zaw Lwin’s mother is serving a five-year prison term for political activities, and his sister was sentenced to 65 years in prison for involvement in 2007 pro-democracy protests, which government forces brutally suppressed, activist groups and family members say.

Kyaw Zaw Lwin, who was held at a prison about 180 miles (300 kilometers) north of Yangon, was brought to the city’s notorious Insein prison Wednesday and handed over U.S. consular officials Thursday afternoon, said his aunt.

Last year, another American was deported by Myanmar. John Yettaw, whose case attracted considerably more attention, was sentenced to seven years in prison in August for sneaking into Suu Kyi’s home, but released less than a week later after a visit to the country by U.S. Senator Jim Webb.

As a teenager in Myanmar, previously known as Burma, Kyaw Zaw Lwin helped organize students during Myanmar’s 1988 pro-democracy uprising and later fled to the United States. According to dissident groups, he is a resident of Maryland.

His reason for returning to Myanmar was not clear, but there has been speculation he hoped to see his jailed relatives.