Amnesty does lit­tle to lib­er­ate Myan­mar’s po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers: AAPP

Mizzima Business Weekly - - AFFAIRS -

The As­sis­tance As­so­ci­a­tion for Po­lit­i­cal Pris­on­ers (AAPP) and the For­mer Po­lit­i­cal Pris­on­ers So­ci­ety (FPPS) are greatly dis­ap­pointed at the re­lease of only a hand­ful of po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers this week, among thou­sands of crim­i­nal of­fend­ers set free in the amnesty, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease July 31.

On July 30, the Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion an­nounced the re­lease of 6,966 pris­on­ers in the first pres­i­den­tial amnesty since Oc­to­ber 2014.

Of those 6,966, only 13 po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers were granted free­dom, ac­cord­ing to the NGOs. This num­ber is dras­ti­cally dis­pro­por­tion­ate to the amount of po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists cur­rently de­tained, with the 13 po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers all serv­ing rel­a­tively short terms of im­pris­on­ment, or had in some cases al­most com­pleted their sen­tences. Yet, in­cluded in the amnesty were 155 Chi­nese na­tion­als found guilty of illegal log­ging in Kachin State on July 22, 153 of which were sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment.

The NGOs said their re­lease, less than 10 days af­ter their sen­tenc­ing fol­low­ing de­mands from China to free the pris­on­ers and re­turn them to their coun­try of ori­gin, raises se­ri­ous doubts re­gard­ing Myan­mar’s sovereignt­y and the va­lid­ity of the rule of law in the coun­try.

The re­lease of many crim­i­nal pris­on­ers, in par­tic­u­lar the back­track­ing shown in the case of the Chi­nese de­tainees, fur­ther re­it­er­ates how lit­tle re­spect for rule of law there is in Myan­mar, and how ur­gently re­forms in this area are needed, the groups said.

With the num­ber of ar­rests of po­lit­i­cal and hu­man rights ac­tivists on the rise, it is ev­i­dent that the gov­ern­ment is in­creas­ingly crack­ing down on fun­da­men­tal free­doms of assem­bly, as­so­ci­a­tion and ex­pres­sion in the run up to gen­eral elec­tion, they said, not­ing that there are cur­rently 120 po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers be­hind bars, with a fur­ther 444 peo­ple await­ing trial.

AAPP and FPPS are call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to un­con­di­tion­ally re­lease the re­main­ing po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers ahead of the Novem­ber elec­tion, and end the on­go­ing tri­als of those fac­ing charges. In ad­di­tion, AAPP and FPPS are urg­ing the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to stand with them in their call.


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