Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

Myan­mar granted amnesty to more than 250 pris­on­ers ahead of peace talks be­ing held last week with eth­nic rebel groups, in­clud­ing two ac­tivists sen­tenced to hard labour for their work pro­mot­ing in­ter­faith peace. The pres­i­dent’s of­fice an­nounced late Tues­day it would re­lease 186 Myan­mar na­tion­als and 73 for­eign­ers as a ges­ture of good­will. Among them were ac­tivists Zaw Zaw Latt and Pwint Phyu Latt, who were de­tained in 2015 af­ter they trav­elled to the head­quar­ters of the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army to de­liver a Chris­tian cross and a statue of Bud­dha as sym­bols of peace. Last year they were jailed for two years with hard labour in a case that hu­man rights ac­tivists slammed as po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated and pan­der­ing to a hate cam­paign by Bud­dhist na­tion­al­ists. They were among some 40 po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers, land ac­tivists, stu­dent ac­tivists and farm­ers greeted by jubilant well-wish­ers as they walked out of pri­son in Man­dalay on May 24 morn­ing. “I am very happy (but) they should not have been in pri­son in the first place,” said Harry Myo Lin, di­rec­tor of hu­man rights ad­vo­cacy group The Seag­ull, who went down to meet them. Myan­mar has re­leased more than a thou­sand pris­on­ers since the for­mer junta ceded power to a quasi-civil­ian gov­ern­ment in 2011. Hun­dreds were par­doned shortly af­ter No­bel Peace Prize win­ner Aung San Suu Kyi’s civil­ian gov­ern­ment took over in 2016 af­ter win­ning the first free elec­tions in gen­er­a­tions. The vet­eran democ­racy ac­tivist spent more than 15 years un­der house ar­rest or­dered by the then-mil­i­tary junta, and her party is stacked with for­mer po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers jailed for their ac­tivism. But the ini­tial wave of re­leases has ebbed and a surge in pros­e­cu­tions un­der a con­tro­ver­sial on­line defama­tion law has raised con­cerns about lin­ger­ing curbs on free ex­pres­sion. Around 100 peo­ple are still be­ing held as po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers, while more than 200 are await­ing trial for po­lit­i­cal crimes, ac­cord­ing to the As­sis­tance As­so­ci­a­tion for Po­lit­i­cal Pris­on­ers watch­dog. Harry Myo Lin said the civil­ian gov­ern­ment’s hands were tied by the mil­i­tary, which still con­trols key levers of power un­der a junta-era con­sti­tu­tion. “One of the dif­fi­cul­ties al­most all the time here is the gov­ern­ment doesn’t have con­trol of the home min­istry,” he told AFP. “Also, the ju­di­ciary is not as in­de­pen­dent as it should be.” One of the lucky ones. Photo: Mizzima

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