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Burma Urged to Free All Political Prisoners

  • VOA News

FILE - Burma President Thein Sein arrives at the ASEAN Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, Oct. 8, 2013.

FILE - Burma President Thein Sein arrives at the ASEAN Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, Oct. 8, 2013.

Rights groups are urging Burma's reformist president to keep his pledge to release all the country's political prisoners by the end of the year.

Hundreds of political detainees have already been freed during the last two years under a wave of amnesties ordered by President Thein Sein, but dozens of dissidents remain behind bars. Many complain that Burma, also known as Myanmar, continues to jail government critics.

Human Rights Watch said Tuesday only 39 people remain jailed from a list of political prisoners compiled by a government review committee, but that figure does not include over 200 people charged this year with political crimes, many under a new law severely restricting protests.

Human Rights Watch wants Burma to free all the prisoners and undertake legal reforms to prevent ongoing arrests.

The government-appointed Political Prisoner Scrutiny Committee made the same recommendations in a letter earlier this month to the president.

Committee members, expected to meet with top-level officials in Naypidaw Tuesday, hope all political detainees can be freed before December 31.

Earlier this year, President Thein Sein promised during a visit to London to free all political prisoners by the end of the year.

The arbitrary jailing of political opponents was a hallmark of Burma's military rulers, which ruled for five decades until 2011.

In addition to the prisoner releases, Burma's new government has relaxed media censorship and allowed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to successfully run for parliament.

The reforms have won praise from Western governments, many of which have loosened economic sanctions against the Southeast Asian country.
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