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

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    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.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora