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A Step Forward, On a Long Path

By ASEAN Inter Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus  •  October 13, 2011

As part of the government of Myanmar’s earlier announcement of a general amnesty to release 6,359 prisoners starting from yesterday, at least 200 political prisoners have since been released. However, many more political prisoners, prisoners of conscience remain in indefinite detention. Thus, the AIPMC today reiterates its call for the release of all political prisoners.

While we welcome this news, AIPMC notes that the international community, especially ASEAN, must remain wary of suggestions that equate genuine democratic reform and political reform with this long over-due release. With each passing year, the international community has come to expect that the regime will concede a number of prisoners. Yet, we fear that this approach does little to counteract the grievous lack of substantive democratic reform.

Given ASEAN’s ongoing engagement with its fellow member state, Myanmar, we ask that ASEAN utilize this opportunity to join with the international community in strongly urging the junta to ensure that this amnesty extends to all political prisoners.

Only in tandem with genuine constitutional and political reform, might this amnesty be seen to resolve key human rights issues in Myanmar. ASEAN states have a particular role to play, and can assist this process in urging the junta to hold reconciliatory, participatory dialogue with non-state actors, including opposition and minority groups. Only then might a key tenet of democracy – that is, the engagement of all – be met.

Following this, we ask that the whereabouts of many other political prisoners, who have not been released, be made known to the public and international community at large, given long-standing concerns regarding the conditions under which they are kept.

Prison conditions in Myanmar, as Amnesty noted, “fall far short of many international standards. Food, water and medical care are insufficient; many political prisoners are held far away from their families; and most have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including prolonged solitary confinement.” Such conditions continue to deny political prisoners their inherent dignity, as enshrined in all forms of international law and practice. This includes both an end to arbitrary arrests of political figures, and a guarantee of rights to freedom of expression upon which a transition to democratic reform rests.

Finally, we reiterate calls that the regime to close Myanmar’s numerous, notoriously isolated prisons, such as the Insein. Such detainments are routinely described, as with Myanmar’s many illegal internment camps, as “hell”, “tantamount to a death sentence” for political prisoners and prisoners of conscience alike.

It is clear that the regime seeks to impress upon the international community its capacity for genuine democratic reform.

Should the military junta make known the whereabouts and actively improve the conditions under which its political prisoners are being detained, so too close its internment camps; then, and only then, will the junta move to restore democracy. Indeed, in Myanmar, such a move is merely one step in a democratic process long since overdue.

End.

The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) is a network formed in an inaugural meeting in Kuala Lumpur, on 26-28 November 2004 by and for Parliamentarians from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries. The aim is advocating for human rights and democratic reform in Myanmar/Burma.  Its members represent both the ruling and non-ruling political parties of countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Cambodia.

Eva Sundari , MP (Indonesia) President
Charles Chong, MP (Singapore) Vice-President
Dadoes Soemarwanto, MP (Indonesia) Member
Kraisak Choonhavan (Thailand) Vice President
Lorenzo Tanada, MP (The Philippines) Vice President
Son Chhay, MP (Cambodia) Vice-President
Lim Kit Siang, MP (Malaysia)
Vice-President
Teresa Kok, MP (Malaysia)
Secretary

For more information/ interview with AIPMC MPs, please contact: Agung Putri Astrid +62 81514006416

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This post is in: Press Release

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