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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid