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

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid