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“I will continue to fight for our people’s freedom”: An interview with Ashin Zaw Latt


January 17, 2012

Ashin Zaw Latt is a prominent Mon Buddhist monk who was arrested on January 7, 2010. He was incarcerated as a political prisoner after launching a poster campaign in Mon State encouraging people to oppose the 2010 elections. The military regime sentenced him to 15 years in prison, but he was released on January 13 as part of the Burmese government’s amnesty for 651 political prisoners. He is currently 30 years old, and hails from Mudoon Village, Chaungzone Township, Mon State.

Akar, an editor of Kaowao News, spoke with Ashin Zaw Latt after he arrived in Rangoon on his way back home to Mon State.

Are you still wearing your Buddhist robes?

 Ashin Zaw Latt: I am still a Buddhist monk. But in prison I was not allowed to wear my monks’ robes. I will wear my robes again when I get to my village.

What are your future plans now that you are out from prison?

Ashin Zaw Latt: My aim is to be a good journalist. I need to study hard in order to be prepared. The reason why I want to be a good journalist is that our Mon media is very weak. Regarding news in our community, there is no big space for freedom. In order to have a developed Mon media, I believe that we all need to join hands to work for it.

Do you have any plans to be politically active?

Ashin Zaw Latt: I want to tell all of our Mon people to be active in politics. We still do not have our freedom yet. I will continue to fight for our people’s freedom, and I believe will be joined by other people. To have our freedom, we must all fight together.

How can you be eager to continue to be active in media and politics, as these were the things that got you sent to prison for over two years?

Ashin Zaw Latt: I need to continue to be active with these things, even if they put me in prison again. This is my straight decision. Media put me in prison for ten years [sentence]. Politics got me one year in prison. For distributing the Guiding Star newspaper, they [sentenced me] to four years in prison. They [the military government] charged me for three different charges, and sentenced me to fifteen years in prison total.

How did you feel while you were in prison?

Ashin Zaw Latt: They (Burmese authorities) transferred me from Insein Prison to Pathein Prison [in the Irrawaddy Division]. I saluted and sang the Mon national song every day after I arrived in Pathein, as I love our Mon people, and I also want our Mon people to struggle for our freedom, according to the song.

What do you want to say about the fact that two other prominent Mon political prisoners, Min Nay Win and Min Myo Thwe, were not released in the recent amnesty, and remain behind bars?

Ashin Zaw Latt: I thought all three of us would be released at the same time when I heard about the amnesty. We all will work together again after they are released. But, even without them, I am not discouraged. I will do everything that I can do.

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