News / Asia

Burma Frees 20 Political Prisoners in General Amnesty

Burma has freed more than 20 political prisoners as part of a general amnesty the government says is aimed at promoting national reconciliation.

Burmese rights activists said the dissidents were among a group of 46 prisoners granted amnesties by President Thein Sein on Tuesday. State media said the government freed an additional 34 foreign prisoners and deported them.

One prominent Burmese dissident included in Tuesday's release is Than Zaw, a former youth member of the opposition National League for Democracy who had been in prison since 1989. Authorities also freed former student protester Koe Aye Aung, who was arrested in 1998 and sentenced to 59 years in jail for distributing pamphlets and participating in a pro-democracy uprising.

Burma has released hundreds of political prisoners since last year, when a civilian government with close ties to the military came to power, ending decades of harsh military rule.

The Burmese government said it agreed to the latest amnesty "with a view to ensuring the stability of the state and making eternal peace and national reconciliation."

A Kayen rebel who was among those freed told VOA that his group helped to achieve his release.

"I think this is because of the pressure from the political organizations and mainly due to the demands by the armed groups," said Hikun Kawriyo.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Tuesday her National League for Democracy party believes at least 330 political prisoners remain in detention. Speaking at a news conference in Rangoon, she called on the government to release all of them.

Some rights groups say the number of remaining prisoners of conscience in Burma is much higher. Khin Ohmar, the coordinator of Burma Partnership, told VOA she is worried that many less-prominent activists may be forgotten.

"Those more than 400 political prisoners still behind bars, because they are not prominent, that's why they need more attention from the international community, including the United States and the rest of the world and international governments," said Ohmar. "They must all work together and keep calling on this regime and pressuring them to release these remaining political prisoners without further delay, unconditionally."

Many Western governments have begun relaxing sanctions against Burma in response to its political and economic reforms. But, they continue to demand the unconditional release of all remaining dissidents in return for establishing full ties with the once-isolated nation.

The Burmese government has said it is considering amnesties for more prisoners but wants to make sure that those guilty of violent crimes are not released.

In addition to freeing political prisoners, Burma's government also has relaxed media censorship, sought cease-fires with armed rebel groups, and permitted the once-imprisoned Aung San Suu Kyi to successfully run for parliament.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs