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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

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