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Monday, December 13, 2010

NZ-based Burmese human rights activist honoured by Amnesty International

Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand has tonight named former Burmese political prisoner and refugee Naing Ko Ko recipient of its 2nd Annual Human Rights Defender Award.

The award was presented to Naing Ko Ko at a reception on International Human Rights Day in recognition of the tireless commitment and courage he has demonstrated in his struggle for human rights in Myanmar (Burma).

“Naing Ko Ko has risked his life, lost the right to return to his home country and left behind friends and family in order to restore freedom to a country that has been under brutal military rule for more than four decades,” said Patrick Holmes, Chief Executive Officer of AIANZ. “For this reason, we are delighted to honour Naing Ko Ko as a true expression of what it means to be a Human Rights Defender.”

Since the age of 16, Wellington-based Naing Ko Ko has been involved with the pro-democracy and human rights movement in Myanmar, and took part in the 1988 student demonstrations. In 1992, he was arrested and spent seven years imprisoned, where he was tortured and interrogated by military intelligence officers. Upon his release in 1998, Naing Ko Ko fled to Thailand and was then accepted as a political refugee in New Zealand in 2006.

“I am very humbled to receive this award, but I know that with this honour, also comes a responsibility to continue our work to ensure the Burmese people can one day enjoy human rights, democracy and peace,” said Naing Ko Ko.

In the lead up to Myanmar’s first elections in over 20 years this November, Naing Ko Ko worked alongside Amnesty International on its Myanmar ‘Freedom’ Campaign calling for the release of Myanmar’s more than 2,200 political prisoners.

“We will continue to work with Naing Ko Ko and the Burmese community of New Zealand to call on Myanmar’s authorities to respect and protect the human rights of its people,” said Holmes.

Sixteen nominations were received for the Human Rights Defender Award, spanning a selection of grassroots to global activists from around Asia, the Pacific and New Zealand.

“The high calibre and diverse range of nominations received this year is testament to the recognition that the defence of human rights in our part of the world is as crucial as it is to the rest of the world,” said Holmes.

The nominees for the 2010 Human Rights Defender Award included: Contemporary artist Shahriar Asdollah-Zadeh; Singapore opposition leader Chee Soon Juan; AIANZ local activists Dolores Edge and Elena Wrelton; New Zealand civil liberties lawyer Tony Ellis; No Right Turn blogger Idiot/Savant; Fijian human rights lawyer Imrana Jalal; Defence lawyer for the ‘Waihopai three’ Michael Knowles; Maire Leadbetter of the Indonesian Human Rights Committee; TVNZ’s Sunday correspondent Janet McIntyre; Burmese activist and refugee Naing Ko Ko; NZ peace and disarmament campaigner Alyn Ware; and West Papuan activist Yan Christian Warinussy.

The judging panel for the Award was Meg Poutasi, Chief Executive of the Pacific Co-operation Foundation; Rosslyn Noonan, Chief Commissioner of the NZ Human Rights Commission and Patrick Holmes, Amnesty NZ’s Chief Executive Officer.

The Human Rights Defender Award presentation was timed to mark International Human Rights Day, in celebration of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


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