Burma Says To Free 6,359 Prisoners, But How Many Political Detainees? – OpEd


By Zin Linn

Burma or Myanmar government’s appointed human rights body – Myanmar National Human Rights Commission – has submitted a request in open letter to President Thein Sein of Burma (Myanmar) today. The MNHRC ‘s chairman Win Mra has urged Burma’s President to release prisoners of conscience in the open letter which appeared in the state-owned media today.

The Rights Commission says in its letter that the establishment of the organization is meant to promote and protect the fundamental rights of citizens enshrined in the Constitution. It can also be regarded as fulfilling the hope and aspiration of the international community.

The letter also says: “The release of those prisoner, convicted for breach of the existing laws, who do not pose a threat to the stability of state and public tranquility in the interest of national races will enable them to participate in whatever way they can in the nation-building tasks.”

The open letter marks an important swing in a country where military-dominated government accustomed to say no to the existence of political prisoners.

Many people notice the letter that published in the state-owned newspapers as a significant sign. Because the government controlled newspapers have a habit of revealing government attitude.

Concurrently, at 1 pm today, Burma’s state-owned MRTV television has broadcast 6,359 prisoners will be freed tomorrow the full moon day of Tha-din-gyut in Burmese calendar as an amnesty given by the new president.

The announcement came out following the chairman of the national human rights body urged President Thein Sein to release “prisoners of conscience” in an open letter in state media.

However, the MRTV did not mention about the numbers of convicts considered to be political prisoner would be among those released.

According to earlier news, Shwe Mann, speaker of Burma’s lower house of parliament, told Norway’s visiting deputy foreign minister Espen Barth Eide that the government has a plan to release more than 1200 political prisoners “within days” at a meeting on 7 October.

Shwe Mann’s assertion was supported by an anonymous government official who confirmed prisoners would be released before the country’s president Thein Sein leaves for an official visit to India on Wednesday (12 October).

Ahead of the government’s today announcement on amnesty, a movement of letter-campaigns has been taking place across the country urging President Thein Sein to release all political prisoners for the sake of national reconciliation. Several famous writers, poets, musicians, artists and intellectuals have signed the petition letter in order to initiate national reconciliation in Burma.

On last May 17, the new Burmese government released more than 14,600 prisoners who had less than one year left on their terms. However, under that clemency line-up, very few political prisoners released because most of political prisoners are serving long-terms imprisonments at least 10 years, 65 years and up to 104 years.

Together with its 2,000 political prisoners, Burma has more than 60,000 prisoners in 42 prisons and 109 labor camps.

Human rights watchdogs and the U.S. State Department have stated the government must go further and immediately release Burma’s estimated 2,100 political prisoners. U.S. President Barack Obama renewed American economic sanctions on Burma for another year in May, saying the large-scale repression of the democratic opposition in that country has not been resolved.

Asian Correspondent

Asian Correspondent is an English-language liberal news, blogs and commentary online newspaper serving all of the Asia-Pacific region. The website covers asian business, politics, technology, the environment, education, new media and Asia society issues.

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