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500 Join Free Political Prisoners Prayer in Mandalay

Originally appeared in The Irrawaddy and Burma Today

March 22, 2012

Around 500 people, including the relatives of political prisoners, gathered at Mandalay’s Maha Myat Muni Pagoda on Thursday to pray for the unconditional release of jailed activists and others behind bars for political reasons.

The gathering, organized by Buddhist monk and former political prisoner Ashin Wiyathu, is the largest protest to highlight the issue since hundreds of prominent prisoners of conscience were released in a mass amnesty in January.

“People are not only interested in the upcoming by-elections. They also want the government to release these innocent people as soon as possible,” said Ashin Withayu, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

“Prisons are not a place for people who have committed no crime. We will continue our campaign until they are released, or until they put me in prison to stay with them.”

Although the protest did not receive official permission, many who took part in it openly held up signboards with messages calling for the release of all remaining political prisoners.

Monks who delivered Buddhist sermons at the event warned those attended that they should be prepared to suffer if the authorities take action against them.

“They [the authorities] were worried that this could turn into another uprising, so they didn’t give us permission. But we have concluded our campaign peacefully,” said Ashin Wiyathu.

The precise number of political prisoners still being held in Burma is not clear, although the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) puts the figure at around 800. It says, however, that it only has complete details for 413.

Last week, the Rangoon-based Former Political Prisoners Group handed over a list of 619 names to the US special envoy for Burma, Derek Mitchell.

On Jan. 13, many of Burma’s most prominent political dissidents were released from prisons around the country, including 88 Generation leader Min Ko Naing and U Gambira, one of the Buddhist monks who led the 2007 Saffron Revolution.

၂၂ ရက္ မတ္လ ၂၀၁၂ ခုႏွစ္ မြန္းလြဲ ၁ နာရီတြင္ က်န္ရွိေနဆဲ ႏိုင္ငံေရးအက်ဥ္းသားမ်ား လြတ္ေျမာက္ရန္ ၀တ္ျပဳဆုေတာင္းပြဲတခုကို မႏၱေလးၿမိဳ႕ မဟာျမတ္မုနိ ရုပ္ရွင္ေတာ္ျမတ္ႀကီး ေရွ႕ေမွာက္တြင္ က်င္းပျပဳလုပ္ခဲ့သည္။ ထို ဆုေတာင္းပြဲကို ဦးပဥၹင္း ဦး၀ီရသူက ဦးေဆာင္ျပဳလုပ္ခဲ့ျပီး အက်ဥ္းက်ေနသူမ်ား၏ မိသားစုဝင္မ်ားမ်ား အပါအဝင္ စုစုေပါင္းလူအင္အား ငါးရာခန္႔ တက္ေရာက္ခဲ့သည္။ ထုိဆုေတာင္းပြဲ မျပဳလုပ္မီ သက္ဆိုင္ရာ အာဏာပိုင္ကို အေၾကာင္းၾကားခဲ့ျပီး အာဏာပိုင္က ခြင့္ျပဳခ်က္ မေပးခဲ့ေသာ္လည္း ဆုေတာင္းပြဲျပဳလုပ္စဥ္ မွတ္တမ္းတင္ျခင္းမွ လြဲ၍ အေႏွာင့္အယွက္ တစ္စံုတစ္ရာ မေပးခဲ့ေပ။

See photos of the event by Burma Today here.

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This post is in: People's Voices

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