Burma’s President Thein Sein Government has announced it has cut back on the sentences of some prisoners who got grave punishments such as death sentence, life sentence and more than 20 to 30 years imprisonments. Those inmates will be released beginning on 3 January on humanitarian grounds.
State-owned televisions and radios said Monday that President Thein Sein has already signed a leniency decree in order to mark the country’s 64th anniversary of independence.
According to the Eleven Media Group (EMG), the decree says that death sentences will be commuted to life term, while some prisoners serving above 30 years will have their punishments reduce to 30 years. The inmates serving between 20 to 30 years must be cut back equal to 20 years. Those serving less than 20 years will have their sentences cut by one-fourth. For instance, 20 years sentence will have to enjoy 5 years cutback.
According to an official from prison department, those inmates corresponding to the presidential decree will be freed starting tomorrow. It was not clearly mentioned whether the authorities would take account of political prisoners.
It seems the president’s clemency order has been carefully implemented to keep in custody several prominent student activists who had been sentenced 65-year prison terms since September 2007. According to this so-called amnesty the political prisoners such as Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Jimmy, Htay Kywe, Pyone Cho, Khun Htun Oo and many more will have to spend 30 years behind bars.
If current government were to say that they are the new civilian government, it has to free all political prisoners who were jailed by the previous junta. If the government thinks itself as a democratic one, then it must not allowed keeping political prisoners in prison.
On 15 May 2011, President Thein Sein had signed a “general amnesty” order No. 28/2011 commuting death sentences to life imprisonment and cutting one year from prisoners’ jail terms. Although over 14,600 inmates were released at that time, there were only a few political prisoners who had already served their jail-terms.
Again on 11 October 2011, President Thein Sein government announced releasing 6,359 prisoners under an amnesty for elderly, ailing and obedient prisoners. As of 12 October, the several prisoners were released under general pardon. But, at the end of the day only about 200 political prisoners were freed.
Even though prominent political prisoners Gen. Hso Ten, Zarganar and Su Su Nway were released, many other prominent student leaders such as Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Min Zeya, Htay Kywe and ethnic leader Khun Tun Oo have been languishing in tarnished jails in Burma.
On that occasion, Ojea Quintana, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar (Burma), said some of the most significant dissidents had not been released and more than 1,000 prisoners of conscience remained behind bars. The UN rights investigator for the isolated country wants many more freed without delay.
There are 42 prisons and 109 hard-labor camp under the prison department of Burma. However, until now, President Thein Sein government continues to reject the existence of political prisoners in Burma.