News / Asia

Burma Releases Prominent Political Prisoners

Burma's former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt, who was once the powerful chief of military intelligence (MI), speaks after his release from house arrest in Rangoon January 13, 2012.
Burma's former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt, who was once the powerful chief of military intelligence (MI), speaks after his release from house arrest in Rangoon January 13, 2012.

Burma has released numerous prominent political prisoners in a significant step toward ending Western economic sanctions against the country.  The presidential amnesty was cautiously welcomed by rights groups who warned dissidents still lack legal protections.

Authorities in Burma Friday said a total of 651 prisoners would be released under an amnesty endorsed by President Thein Sein to foster national reconciliation.

They include some of the most prominent jailed leaders of failed democracy movements, former officials who fell out of favor, and journalists.

Among them was the student leader of Burma’s 1988 pro-democracy uprising Min Ko Naing, leader of the 2007 Buddhist monk protests, U Gambira, and ethnic Shan leader Khun Tun Oo, who was serving a 93-year-sentence for sedition.

Authorities also released former prime minister and spy chief Khin Nyunt who was purged in 2004 along with dozens of his colleagues.

Aung Khaing Min, who is with the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma, says the group welcomes the releases and expect altogether around 400 political prisoners to be given back their freedom.  But he cautions, unlike past amnesties, their sentences were only suspended and not commuted.  

"If the government wants to imprison them again, yes they can because the term of the release is just temporary or just postponement of the sentence," he said.

The AAPPB says despite the release of prominent political prisoners there are still hundreds more behind bars.

 

Recent Prisoner Releases in Burma

  • February 20, 2009:  6,313 prisoners freed, 24 were political
  • September 17, 2009:  7,114 prisoners freed, 28 were political
  • May 16, 2011:  14,578 prisoners freed, 55 were political
  • January 13, 2012:  651 prisoners freed, all 651 were political

Burma’s military-backed government refuses to officially recognize political prisoners, labeling them as common criminals.

Aung Khaing Min says prisoners affiliated with armed ethnic groups or jailed under immigration laws would not be included in the release.  He adds there are several laws that need to change to prevent more dissidents from being locked up.

"Electronics Transactions Act, for example, was enacted in 2004, designed to imprison political activists with longer sentences," he added. "And, for example, Article 71 and 72, Unlawful Association Act, those are commonly used to oppress the opposition or political dissent."

The release of all political prisoners is one requirement by Western nations for economic sanctions against Burma to be lifted.

The United States, the European Union, and others limit trade with Burma because of military abuses and suppression of democracy.

The prisoner releases came as U.S. Congressman Joe Crowley, a key supporter of sanctions, is in Burma for meetings with officials and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Her National League for Democracy party is a big supporter of sanctions to maintain pressure on authorities for reforms.  

The Nobel Prize winner was released from house arrest in 2010 just days after controversial elections that brought President Thein Sein to power.

His nominally civilian government took office in March replacing decades of overt military rule.

Critics say the elections merely cemented military power in the guise of democracy.

But President Thein Sein surprised observers with a series of reforms, including holding direct talks with Aung San Suu Kyi, seeking peace with ethnic rebel groups, and releasing hundreds of political prisoners.

You May Like

Photogallery Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had earlier warned storm could be one of worst the city has ever faced More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid