Ithaca College Quarterly 2004/4
Burmese Freedom Fighter



Returning to work just a few days after the strike ended, Lin was grateful for the support of the College community. Because of Lin's passion for the plight of the Burmese and his selfless courage, Lin's boss, facilities services supervisor Matt Huddle, wanted to make sure Lin received the maximum amount of unpaid leave -- nine weeks -- a request approved by the Office of Human Resources.

Lin and fellow strikers; the poster shows imprisoned leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Lin, says Huddle, is treasured not only as an employee, but also as inspiration. "I don't think I've run into anybody who believes in something so strongly. I wish more people were like Han," he says. "He takes his beliefs to heart. We could all learn from him."

Stuart Holliday, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, met with the hunger strikers and promised U.N. action for Burma.

Lin with fellow hunger strikers

Thuya, May, and Tayza say they would return to Burma should democracy be restored. For their father, who continues to pressure the United Nations, returning to Burma is not a matter of if but when. In late October Burmese refugees and political activists convened in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for their second conference on Burmese democracy. Lin attended the conference as a member of the Democratic Burmese Comm unity-Ithaca, which was established after the Depeyin massacre by the 20 or so politically active Burmese refugees now living in Ithaca. In a three-day conference the group passed several resolutions including one that calls for increased inter national pressure and economic sanctions against the military regime in Myanmar. Lin explains, "We intend to establish the Burmese-American Network for Democracy in Burma nation wide, effectively working with American people who want to help us in the struggle for Burmese democracy."

The struggle for democracy is facing numerous roadblocks. On October 19 the country's relatively moderate prime minister and former head of military intelligence, General Khin Nyunt, was kicked out of office and arrested in a coup; the man who replaced him, General Soe Win, has been accused of orchestrating the Depeyin massacre. Also in October the UN representative for Burmese human rights suggested he would step down unless the regime allows him into the country -- something it has refused to do for more than a year. In late November the 10-member ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) announced it would not censure Myanmar publicly, as several of its members had urged, and would even hold its 2006 talks in that country. At the same time, a National League for Democracy spokes man confirmed that Suu Kyi had been told her detention would be extended until at least September 2005. Her telephone has been disconnected, and party leaders have not been allowed to visit her since May.

The bad news came the same day the state-run press reported that several thousand prisoners -- including a few political prisoners -- had been freed, completing releases recently promised by the regime. The reports said the junta had begun releasing prisoners who were wrongly charged by the former National Intelligence Bureau, an organization of internal security groups that was dissolved by the regime last month in the overthrow of Nyunt. Among the released were apparently several of Suu Kyi's party members.

In early December the White House made good on the U.S. promise with a strong statement demanding that Myanmar military authorities "immediately and unconditionally" release Aung San Suu Kyi and condemning her extended house arrest.

It is hard to keep up with events in Burma; things are happening quickly and it is not easy to get firsthand news. Despite the difficulties, Han Lin remains optimistic. "I have a plan to help our people," he says. "I ask the international community to support our work for freedom and democracy in Burma. I ask especially the people of the Ithaca College community to sup port our Network for Democracy in Burma." He plans to resume the hunger strike if necessary. end

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