ISSN 2330-717X

Thailand: Comedian Among Freed Political Prisoners

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A Thai group monitoring political detainees in Myanmar claimed today that more than 100 political prisoners have been released by the government in Yangon, although other reports put the number somewhat lower.

Western governments and analysts have been hailing the releases, among a total of more than 6,300 prisoners set free today, as a positive move after many years of repression under military rule.

The Mae Sot-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)’s estimate was higher than other reports that put the number of freed political prisoners at around 30. But Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy – whose legality has been in doubt for some time – told media that around 120 had been set free.

One of the first to be set free was a well-known comic, known only as Zarganar, who had been detained since 2008 after publicly criticisingthe official response to the devastating Cyclone Nargis. After leaving detention he told the BBC the release was conditional. “If I do something wrong they will send me back. I am not happy because there are so many of my friends still in prison.”

The self-styled civilian government had yesterday flagged a mass pardon but had not indicated which, if any, of an estimated 2-5,000 dissidents, including Budhist monks, held for political reasons.

Foreign media reported yesterday that a new national human rights commission had called on President Thein Sein in an open letter, published in state media, to free prisoners who did not pose “a threat to the stability of state and public tranquillity.”

Among other well-known dissidents, Sai Say Htan, an ethnic Shan leader, was reportedly set free but Ko Ko Gyi and Min Ko Naing, two of the the leaders of a failed 1988 uprising against the miltary junta, remain in detention, according to reports.

UCA News

The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News, UCAN) is the leading independent Catholic news source in Asia. A network of journalists and editors that spans East, South and Southeast Asia, UCA News has for four decades aimed to provide the most accurate and up-to-date news, feature, commentary and analysis, and multimedia content on social, political and religious developments that relate or are of interest to the Catholic Church in Asia.

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