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Political Prisoner Release is a Significant Step, Thein Sein’s Government Must Take More

By Burma Partnership  •  January 13, 2012

Burma Partnership welcomes the release of political prisoners today, in what has been one of the most significant moves made so far by President Thein Sein. This is a crucial step towards greater democracy in Burma and we hope that Thein Sein’s government will continue to make substantive changes.

“We are so happy to hear that our family members, friends and colleagues are free. But it is bittersweet because we know that many less prominent political prisoners are still being detained,” said Khin Ohmar, Coordinator of Burma Partnership. “If Thein Sein is sincere about wanting political prisoners to participate in national reconciliation and nation-building, then they must all be released without further delay.”

We hope that today’s release has not only been undertaken as a bargaining chip for the lifting of sanctions, but that Thein Sein’s government will continue on the path of reform and take further steps including ensuring that all those released will be able to participate freely in political processes and repealing the unjust laws under which political prisoners have been imprisoned. Without these steps, self-censorship will prevail and public debate will remain flawed.

We are concerned that Thein Sein’s order for today’s releases was issued according to Article 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which allows for prisoners’ sentences to be suspended or remitted, but not cancelled as in previous amnesties. Furthermore, under Article 401, the President may impose conditions on the suspension or remittance of a sentence. This could be used as a means to silence the former political prisoners or even send them back to jail to serve their remaining sentence if they are too outspoken.

We hope that Thein Sein will prove the sincerity of today’s release by continuing to take meaningful and substantial steps towards national reconciliation, including releasing all remaining political prisoners, repealing all unjust and oppressive laws, allowing full freedom of expression and assembly without condition, immediately halting attacks on ethnic communities and establishing a national ceasefire.

For more information, please contact:

Khin Ohmar: +66818840772 or khinohmar@burmapartnership.org

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