News / Asia

Burma Releasing Political Prisoners Tuesday

Political prisoners Yan Naing Tun (C) and Aung Min Naing (back L) talk to the media after being released from Insein prison in Rangoon, Dec. 31, 2013.
Political prisoners Yan Naing Tun (C) and Aung Min Naing (back L) talk to the media after being released from Insein prison in Rangoon, Dec. 31, 2013.
VOA News
Freed dissidents began emerging from Burmese jails Tuesday, the last day for President Thein Sein to make good on his promise of releasing all political prisoners by year's end.

At least five political prisoners have been released so far. More are set to walk free in the coming days as part of what officials are calling a wide-ranging amnesty.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners reported that among those freed are Aung Min Naing and Yan Naing Tun, activists jailed for leading an unauthorized protest.
AAPP's Bo Kyi, who serves on a government political prisoner panel, told VOA he expects the remaining prisoners to be let go during the first week of January.
That would include an estimated 40 jailed dissidents. It would also mean charges are being dropped against about 200 others facing trial for political reasons in Burma, also known as Myanmar.
President Thein Sein announced the amnesty Monday. The reformist president promised during a July London visit to free all political prisoners by the end of the year.

Presidential spokesman Ye Htut said on his Facebook page Tuesday that the promise has been kept, declaring "there are no more political prisoners" in Burma, also known as Myanmar.

Rights groups estimate around 40 political prisoners are still in prison in Burma. Additionally, around 200 people are awaiting trial, including many who were recently charged with violating a new protest law.

Hmu Zaw, a senior official in the presidential office, told VOA's Burmese service on Monday the amnesty includes not only those convicted of political offenses, but also those whose cases are still being prosecuted.

Hmu Zaw says there are five reasons for the amnesty: for the sake of peace, for humanitarian reasons, for national reconciliation, to allow those freed to take part in the political process, and to help rebuild the nation.

The government did not say how many would be freed, but human rights groups in Burma and former political prisoners estimate more than 200 people could be released. However, they say it is possible some may remain jailed because many political prisoners were convicted of other crimes, such as desertion or murder.

Over the past three years, Burma has undergone significant political reforms, as its military government has given way to an elected one. It has allowed opposition candidates to run for office and take seats in parliament, and eased tough laws on dissent and the news media.

The government has released more than 1,300 political prisoners since reforms began, but rights groups say the government's efforts will be incomplete if it does not amend or remove oppressive laws that have allowed the government to continue detaining its critics.
They also point out that many of those freed have been re-arrested later.

You May Like

Photogallery Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

UN Warns Air Pollution in Asia Pacific Has Rising Cost

Globally some seven million people a year die prematurely due to indoor and outdoor pollution with about 70 per cent of those deaths in region

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs