Pris­on­ers of con­science re­leased but scores re­main be­hind bars - Amnesty

Mizzima Business Weekly - - AFFAIRS -

The re­lease of at least 11 pris­on­ers of con­science in a mass pris­oner amnesty in Myan­mar on 30 July is a step in the right di­rec­tion, but author­i­ties must im­me­di­ately clear the coun­try’s jails of the scores of peace­ful ac­tivists who still re­main be­hind bars, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said in a media re­lease on 30 July.

The Myan­mar author­i­ties re­leased 6,966 peo­ple as part of a Pres­i­den­tial pris­oner amnesty. Among those freed are at least 11 men who Amnesty In­ter­na­tional has des­ig­nated pris­on­ers of con­science – in­clud­ing jour­nal­ists, peace­ful protesters and com­mu­nity lead­ers from the re­pressed Mus­lim Ro­hingya mi­nor­ity.

“We are de­lighted that these 11 men can now walk free and re­turn to their fam­i­lies, even if noth­ing can make up for the or­deal they have had to go through. But the fact re­mains that none of them should have been im­pris­oned in the first place,” said Ru­pert Ab­bott, Amnes- ty In­ter­na­tional’s Re­search Di­rec­tor for South­east Asia and the Pa­cific.

“We have seen an alarm­ing in­crease in ar­rests and ha­rass­ment of peace­ful ac­tivists in Myan­mar in the past year, with an in­creas­ing num­ber of pris­on­ers of con­science lan­guish­ing be­hind bars. Re­leases like the one to­day will have lit­tle long-term ef­fect if the laws that al­low the author­i­ties to crack­down on hu­man rights de­fend­ers, stu­dents, jour­nal­ists, and gov­ern­ment crit­ics re­main on the books.”

It is the first mass pris­oner amnesty since Oc­to­ber 2014, when thou­sands were re­leased a few weeks ahead of Myan­mar host­ing two ma­jor in­ter­na­tional sum­mits.

“Myan­mar’s author­i­ties have a track record of an­nounc­ing pris­oner amnesties, like the one to­day, at po­lit­i­cally opportune times. The gov­ern­ment must prove that this is more than an empty ges­ture to curry favour ahead of the Novem­ber elec­tions. The next step must be to re­lease the scores of peace­ful ac­tivists who still re­main be­hind bars, and to drop charges against those fac­ing im­pris­on­ment sim­ply for peace­fully ex­er­cis­ing their hu­man rights,” said Ru­pert Ab­bott.

Pris­on­ers of con­science in­cluded in the pris­oner amnesty in­cluded:

Kyaw Zaw Hein, Win Tin, Thura Aung, Yin Min Htun, and Kyaw Min Khaing, all media work­ers from the Bi Mid­day Sun news­pa­per, each sen­tenced to two years in prison af­ter the pa­per pub­lished claims that op­po­si­tion leader Aung San Suu Kyi and eth­nic lead­ers had been elected as an in­terim gov­ern­ment in July 2014.

Michaungka­n com­mu­nity leader Sein Than, sen­tenced to two years in prison for par­tic­i­pat­ing in a se­ries of peace­ful protests in re­sponse to fail­ures by the author­i­ties to re­solve his com­mu­nity’s land dis­pute.


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