Gov­ern­ment urged to re­lease po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - – Trans­la­tion by Khant Lin Oo YE MON HTOO THANT

Sup­port­ers are call­ing for the re­lease of 83 pris­on­ers and the aban­don­ment of pros­e­cu­tions against a fur­ther 142 peo­ple.

THE an­nounce­ment that hun­dreds of peo­ple ac­cused of “po­lit­i­cal” crimes would no longer face pros­e­cu­tion has raised hopes that po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers still be­hind bars could be freed be­fore the peace process gets un­der way at the end of this month. Ac­tivists have called for the re­lease of about 83 pris­on­ers and the aban­don­ment of pros­e­cu­tions di­rected at a fur­ther 142 peo­ple who face what they call po­lit­i­cal charges.

Min­istry of Home Af­fairs per­ma­nent sec­re­tary U Tin Myint told par­lia­ment that 274 cases against 457 de­fen­dants had been aban­doned dur­ing the gov­ern­ment’s 100-day ini­tia­tive. Speak­ing at an Au­gust 16 press con­fer­ence, he said, “We took this ac­tion at the re­quest of the pres­i­dent and the state coun­sel­lor. This rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant ac­com­plish­ment on the part of the gov­ern­ment, and has eased the con­cerns of po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists.”

U Tate Naing, sec­re­tary of the As­sis­tance As­so­ci­a­tion for Po­lit­i­cal Pris­on­ers (AAPP), told The Myanmar Times yes­ter­day that the gov­ern­ment should re­lease the re­main­ing po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers be­fore the 21st-cen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence sched­uled to be­gin on Au­gust 31. He said most of those still be­hind bars were rel­a­tives of eth­nic armed group mem­bers who had been sen­tenced un­der the Un­law­ful As­so­ci­a­tion Act.

“The Min­istry of Home Af­fairs shouldn’t han­dle the po­lit­i­cal pris­oner is­sue. The gov­ern­ment needs to re­lease the re­main­ing po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers and should close the cases against po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists,” he said.

The AAPP to­day re­leases its monthly re­port for July, say­ing that the Un­law­ful As­so­ci­a­tion Act con­tin­ues to be a tool for the ar­rest, de­ten­tion and sen­tenc­ing of civil­ians ac­cused of be­ing part of un­recog­nised or­gan­i­sa­tions and eth­nic armed groups.

“This month, three Arakanese were con­victed of al­leged con­nec­tion with the Arakan Army (AA) un­der Sec­tion 17(1) of the Un­law­ful As­so­ci­a­tion Act, two of them to three years’ im­pris­on­ment with hard labour and the other to two years’ im­pris­on­ment with hard labour,” said the re­port.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, 53 po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers re­lated to Arakan Army mem­bers were sen­tenced un­der the act, as well as 15 other pris­on­ers re­lated to mem­bers of the Restora­tion Coun­cil of Shan State, the Karen Na­tional Union, the Shan State Pro­gres­sive Party and the Shan Ni Army.

U Tun Kyi, a mem­ber of the For­mer Po­lit­i­cal Pris­on­ers So­ci­ety (FPPS), said yes­ter­day that the for­mer pris­on­ers hoped to see a pres­i­den­tial amnesty de­clared be­fore the peace con­fer­ence in the spirit of na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. Such an act would fur­ther bur­nish the coun­try’s rep­u­ta­tion, he said.

“The po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers is­sue is at a deadlock. I think there is no agree­ment be­tween the com­man­der-inchief and the pres­i­dent on fur­ther re­leases. The Na­tional De­fence and Se­cu­rity Coun­cil should take up the mat­ter and reach agree­ment,” he said.

Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Karen Na­tional Union, called on the gov­ern­ment to repeal the colo­nial-era act. “Ev­ery­one knows the law must be re­pealed,” he said.

In the last ses­sion of the Pyithu Hlut­taw, law­maker U Pe Than (ANP; Mye­bon) sought to es­tab­lish a def­i­ni­tion of the term “po­lit­i­cal pris­oner”, a des­ig­na­tion that at one time could be ap­plied to many sit­ting MPs.

Photo: EPA

A stu­dent activist pours wa­ter on his fel­low stu­dents af­ter their re­lease from In­sein Prison in Yan­gon on April 17, af­ter Pres­i­dent U Htin Kyaw granted amnesty for 83 po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers.

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