News / Asia

    Burma Pardons 56 Political Prisoners

    FILE - Burmese president Thein Sein prepares to leave for a state visit to the U.S., at Rangoon International airport, Burma, May 17, 2013.
    FILE - Burmese president Thein Sein prepares to leave for a state visit to the U.S., at Rangoon International airport, Burma, May 17, 2013.
    VOA News
    Burma announced plans to free 56 political prisoners on Tuesday, in the latest amnesty ordered by President Thein Sein.

    The identities of those pardoned was not immediately known, but officials said they include members of armed ethnic minority groups.

    Dozens of dissidents remain jailed in the formerly military-ruled country, despite several rounds of presidential amnesties.

    During a visit to London in July, Thein Sein promised to free all political prisoners by the end of the year. Critics have called for him to act immediately, saying the prisoners should not be used to win concessions from the West.

    The latest amnesty came on the same day the Burmese leader headed to Brunei for a meeting of regional and international leaders.

    Mark Farmaner with Burma Campaign UK said this is not a coincidence. "We've seen over the past two years that he's timed the release of political prisoners tactically in this way for good public relations before key international moments."

    Tuesday's release included members of ethnic Shan and Kachin armed groups.

    Analysts said they may have been freed to help convince Kachin rebels to join a nationwide cease-fire that Western nations have been demanding. The Burmese government opened a new round of peace talks with the Kachin Independence Army on Tuesday.

    But Farmaner said many more dissidents are still being arrested. He doubts whether all political prisoners will be released by year's end.

    "Levels of arrests of people for peaceful political activities is now at a five-year high. We haven't seen since 2008 this many people being arrested for taking part in peaceful political protests," he said.

    Burma Campaign UK estimates that about 50 people have been arrested for peaceful political activities under Thein Sein's rule. It says about another 200 await trial.

    A Burma-based group that also monitors the situation of political prisoners said the number of those arrested or awaiting trial is even higher.

    Bo Kyi of the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners [AAPP] said he doubted that they all will be released by Thein Sein's end-of-year target date.

    "It is unlikely to happen, because, according to our list, about 133 political prisoners remain and another 232 detainees are facing trials," he said. "Those trials need to be closed down and arbitrary detentions have to be stopped. Only then, the issue of political prisoners will end. Otherwise, as long as there are political prisoners and arrests, efforts to secure their release will continue."

    The arbitrary jailing of political opponents was a hallmark of Burma's military rulers, who controlled the country for five decades until 2011.

    Since then, a new, nominally civilian government has released hundreds of political prisoners, 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 decades-old economic sanctions against the Southeast Asian country.

    VOA's Burmese service contributed to this report.

    You May Like

    How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of city

    Probe Targeting China's Statistic Head Sparks Concern

    Economists now asking what prompted government to launch an investigation only months after Wang Baoan had been vetted for crucial job

    HRW: Both Sides in Ukraine Conflict Targeted, Used Schools

    Rights group documents how both sides in Ukraine conflict carried out attacks on schools and used them for military purposes

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.