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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs