Presidential Amnesty: More anger than benefit for releasing Chinese loggers?
It was supposed to be a diplomatic coup when President Thein Sein freed the 155 Chinese workers sentenced to life imprisonment for illegal logging less than two weeks ago in Burma, under a massive presidential pardon. But it turned out to be a failed move politically for the Union Solidarity and Development Party-Military (USDP-Military) regime.
On 30 July, President Thein Sein ordered the release of 6,966 prisoners in a presidential amnesty. However, as in previous mass releases, most of those freed were criminals and former military intelligence officers jailed in 2004. Only 13 of those released were political prisoners, including five journalists. The release also included 155 Chinese loggers jailed on 22 July, and 55 more foreign nationals.
As of 31 July, at least 120 political prisoners remain incarcerated, with 444 activists facing criminal charges for political actions. In a statement released on 14 July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned that the recent surge in political prisoners casts doubt on the regime’s commitment to a genuine democratic election in November.
Earlier, on 22 July, Myitkyina Township Court, Kachin State, had sentenced 155 Chinese citizens to life in prison under Article 6(a) of the Public Property Protection Act for illegal logging in Kachin State. Two Chinese minors received ten year sentences for the same offence, while one woman received an additional
Sai Wansai The Chinese loggers outside court. Photo: EPA