Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Amazing Story of Prisoner 00235 and His Escape From Burma

There is so much horror in the world: Darfur, Iraq, decapitations on video in Germany, the anniversary of 9/11, drug deaths, so much, so much. Maybe that's why I'm also glad occasionally to hear of the flowering of life somewhere, too.

Though I grant you, this one is amazing. I mean, have you ever been reading some novel or other and you hit one fantastic plot twist too many? I've even thrown the book across the room, muttering, or shouting, "Oh, come ooooonnnnn!!"

To be more accurate, I used to do that. Until I'd lived long enough to see that, no matter how amazing the plot turns the novellists come up with, they can't approach real life for weird wonderfulness.

Take the true story of Prisoner 00235 in Burma. Locked up for 6 and a half years in a Burmese military prison.

His crime? None. Just the fact that his name showed up on a list other people thought they might contact.

Born in 1966 in a small village in the north of Burma, Lin knew he wanted to be an artist. But there were no art schools to attend, so he went to University in Rangoon to study law. In the "democracy spring" 0f 1988, in which Aung San Su Kyi emerged as leader, Lin, like many other students, was expelled.

But the internal squabbling in the pro-democracy movement convinced Lin he wanted nothing further to do with politics. He dedicated himself to his art from that point on with his first exhibition in Rangoon in 1996.

Unknown to Lin, in 1998 a letter between two former student colleagues was intercepted, in which they had a list of people to check in with to see if they wanted to be involved.

Simply because his name was on that list, Lin was arrested and, sentenced to seven years, spent the next seven months on death row.

He was still an artist. Many families brought food to their loved ones, and Lin would beg for the plastic bags and the paper labels when they were done eating, and began tracing designs with his fingernails. It was the start of his amazing escape. More tomorrow ...

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