Burma Partnership, Strengthening Cooperation for a Free Burma
Signup Now!
Join our mailing list for latest news and information about Burma.

Update: Release of Only 220 Political Prisoners Shows Regime is Not Committed to Real Change

By Burma Partnership  •  October 13, 2011

The day after the amnesty of prisoners, hinted at in recent weeks by Burma’s regime, many inside and outside Burma expressed their disappointment and frustration over the number of political prisoners included in the amnesty.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), 220 political prisoners were released yesterday from different prisons across the country. This number is unsatisfactory, especially since key leaders and high-profile prisoners, including Min Ko Naing, Khun Htun Oo and U Gambira, remain behind bars.

As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi expressed, “The freedom of each individual is invaluable, but I wish that all political prisoners would be released.” A well-known dissident from Burma and popular comedian, released from prison yesterday morning after 3 years, Zarganar said, “I will be happy, and I will thank the government only when all of my friends are freed.”

Burma’s regime most likely announced the amnesty of 6,359 prisoners in an attempt to have EU and US sanctions lifted. It is the latest development after several months of the regime’s “charm offensive,” designed to win over the international community by giving the impression that change is underway in Burma. After yesterday’s event, it is even more clear that the regime has not made any genuine democratic changes. Democratization and national reconciliation in Burma will not be possible as long as the regime’s critics remain behind bars. Asked about change in Burma, Zarnagar said, “Since this morning, I lost belief in them.”

Burma’s regime has proven that it is not ready to take concrete actions to back up its words. As Burma Campaign UK explained, the low number of political prisoners released places this amnesty in the same category as many similar releases in Burma over the years. Meanwhile, the Burma Army continues to commit human rights violations that may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes in ethnic areas in eastern Burma.

Therefore, the international community must be very cautious in welcoming Burma’s regime’s new promises and decisions. As US Senator Mitch McConnell expressed, “This initial release of political prisoners in Burma is to be welcomed, but questions remain as to whether these individuals will remain free and whether the scores of other political prisoners in the country will be also be liberated.” Moreover, UN Special Rapporteur Tomás Ojea Quintana said he would like to see the release of remaining political prisoners by the end of the year, when the regime is set to hold by-elections.

The number of released political prisoners is insufficient to warrant any shift in policy towards the regime at this time. The international community including the US, the EU and ASEAN, must continue to call for the release of all political prisoners, a nationwide ceasefire and sincere all-inclusive political dialogue. Burma’s regime is not interested in genuine change in order to bring about democratic transition in the country, yesterday’s release clearly demonstrates this.

Tags: , ,

This post is in: Blog

Related Posts
Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice
Burma Army Displays Blatant Disregard for 21st Century Panglong Peace Process
Ann Din Coal Power Plant: Local Movement and Action to Preserve and Protect Natural Resources and Land: Mon IDP Report Case Study #4
Latest Human Rights Abuse Case Demonstrates Urgent Need to Reform the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission
Human Rights Far From Guaranteed as US Sanctions on Burma Are Removed