Burma: Officials Doubt Amnesty’s ‘True Desire’


Christians welcome the government’s amnesty, which led to the release of more than 6,000 prisoners this week, a senior church official said Thursday.

In particular, the release of some political prisoners shows ‘positive change’ but it also requires ‘true desire’ to release all remaining political prisoners.

Bishop Raymond Saw Po Ray, chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace, said he expected the authorities and citizens to be united and try to acquire mutual understanding and trust and work for the development of the country.

“It will never end and we will never get peace and prosperity as long as we are in the state of confrontation. Both parties, the authority and opposition need to reconcile and if able to have mutual trust and cooperation, more and more improvements will be seen in the near future,” Bishop Po Ray said.

The Thailand-based Assistance Association of Political Prisoners Burma (AAPP) released a statement on Thursday saying it “has been monitoring the October 12 prisoner release and we have learned that 220 political prisoners have been freed so far. [But] many other prominent political prisoners such as Min Ko Naing, U Khun Tun Oo, U Gambira were not included among those released.”

The amnesty was not enough to allay protests against the head of Yangon’s nominally civilian government, Thein Sein, by Burmese exiles yesterday in India, where he is on an official visit.

The Burmese Democratic Forces in India group organized a rally in New Delhi and sent a memorandum to the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, reports from India said. The memorandum claims that President Thein Sein’s government does not genuinely represent the 50 million people of Burma.

Father Christopher Raj, the director of Lashio Karuna Social Service said the government wanted to show that they are moving towards democracy by granting the amnesty of the prisoners as a first step.

Fr Raj said the majority of the prisoners released on Wednesday seemed not to be as harmful to the country as the authorities believed.

The other political prisoners still remain behind the bars. “I do hope the government will open the door to democratization step by step if it sees the situation is improving,” said Fr Raj.

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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