By Aye Nai
Burmese President Thein Sein will be the target of a signature campaign led by activists in Burma who are demanding the government release political prisoners and begin political dialogue with the opposition.
According to campaign organiser Phyo Min Thein, one-time chairman of the Union Democratic Party (UDP), the petition will also call for the safe return of refugees and political exiles and an end to intractable conflicts with armed ethnic groups.
“The first step [the new government] needs to take is to release the detained democracy activists to allow them to take part in rebuilding our nation and developing a democratic system,” he said.
“We hope the government led by President Thein Sein will make a positive response to our call.”
Activists in Burma face significant risks, with hundreds behind bars for speaking out against what they claim is injustice by the government. Burma holds nearly 2,200 political prisoners.
Their release would prove to Burmese and the international community that “[the government] is governing the country under real democratic standards”, said monk Dhamma Thiri, a leader of All Burma Monks’ Association.
The prospect of a prisoner amnesty had been mooted as one of the first signs of appeasement by the new government, which was sworn in last month, but nothing has yet taken place.
The campaign organisers are also looking to establish a youth network to further unify activists’ demands.
Phyo Min Thein said the first step would be to collect signatures in Rangoon from National League for Democracy members, ethnic political groups, veteran politicians and former students during the 1988 uprising.