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Respectable Dr. Ma Thida
- Subject: Respectable Dr. Ma Thida
- From: nin@xxxxxx
- Date: Wed, 11 Dec 1996 09:49:00
250 gather in Boston to honor imprisoned Burmese activist: Dr. Ma Thida
BOSTON (AP) _ Ma Thida, a doctor, writer and political activist,
can't receive the award she's earned for fighting for human rights
in Burma. The 27-year-old sits alone in a dark prison cell.
But on Tuesday, hundreds of lights shined for her in Boston.
About 250 people gathered for a candlelight vigil on the Boston
Common to honor Thida's struggle to bring human rights to her
troubled homeland in Southeast Asia.
``I hope she can feel the candles that we have lit here,'' said
Susannah Sirkin, deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights, a
Boston-based group. ``She faces 17 more years.''
Thida is one of four young activists from around the world being
honored with the Reebok Human Rights Award in Boston Wednesday.
Activists from Nigeria, Guatemala are also being honored, along
with a 13-year-old Canadian boy.
Thida was imprisoned in 1993 for opposing Burma's military
dictatorship and supporting the political party of Nobel Peace
Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Among the charges against her were
``endangering public tranquility and distributing unlawful
At the vigil were representatives of Amnesty International, and
celebrities including musicians Michael Stipe and Peter Gabriel and
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
Myaing Nyunt, a 30-year-old George Washington University medical
student and a close friend of Thida's, said the international
community must not forget Burma's plight. She recalled Thida's love
of reading along with her determination.
``Ma Thida is the most stubborn person I have known in my entire
life, but her health has always been on the weak side,'' Nyunt
Sirkin said Thida has lost weight and suffers from tuberculosis
in her small cell with little light and no books.
Menino issued a proclamation on behalf of the city, stressing
the need to fight for human rights every day.
``I look forward to the day she can travel to Boston to accept
the award she so richly deserves,'' Menino said.
Afterwards, Stipe, of the musical group REM, reflected on the
``It's just great to get some form of solidarity,'' he said.
``Even if we are thousands of miles away.''
Massachusetts has the only state selective purchasing law that
bars state agencies from dealing with companies that do business
with Burma. Several cities have passed similar laws.
The law is intended to force investors, including foreign
companies, to choose between doing business with Burma or the state
of Massachusetts. Apple computers recently announced it was pulling
out of Burma because of the Massachusetts law.
Ma Thida is being held in the Insein Prison, where torture of
political prisoners is commonplace.
111243 Dec GMT