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AAPP Cautiously Welcomes Release, Urges Thein Sein to Officially Recognize Existence of Political Prisoners

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners - Burma  •  November 19, 2012

AAPP cautiously welcomes the presidential order that resulted in the release of 51 political prisoners, as of 5 p.m. on 19 November. The releases were strategically timed to coincide with US President Obama’s historic visit to Burma.

On 16 November, President U Thein Sein signed a presidential order authorizing the release of 66 prisoners. The order comes one day after a prisoner release widely condemned for including not one political prisoner alongside the 452 criminal offenders freed. The release was the worst for Burma’s political prisoners to date.

The 51 political prisoners recently released include members of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Network, such as co-founder U Myint Aye and members Yan Shwe and Zaw Zaw Aung. All were sentenced to a minimum of life imprisonment.

Human rights lawyer Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, the first exiled Burmese to be imprisoned following President Thein Sein’s invitation to return to the country, was also released. He was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for an outstanding contempt of court charge.

The release also included at least ethnic resistance members. These are: Saw Tin Oo from the Karen National Union, serving life imprisonment; Bar Yar Nar from the Kachin Independence Army, serving 3 years; Saw Pho Cho, from the Karen National Union, serving 28 years; Sai Aung Than, from the Shan State Army, serving 7 years; and Marid Mon Aung, from the Kachin Independence Army, serving 1 year. We believe ethnic nationalities who chose different means of resistance play a critical role in the national reconciliation process, and thus welcome their release.

Other released political prisoners include at least 8 All Burma Student Democratic Front members, NLD member Ye Zaw Htike, and 2 student activists.

The 19 November prisoner release was conditional as it was authorized under section 401/1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Under this legislation, it is not clear whether prisoners have had their sentences wiped or simply suspended, and are thus vulnerable to re-arrest at any time.

Sai Hla Aung, one of the political prisoners released, was immediately re-arrested and made to appear at court for an outstanding criminal charge.

Fourteen of the prisoners released were not included in AAPP’s list because either their arrest was not politically motivated or there is insufficient information surrounding their imprisonment.

This most recent political prisoner release is no different from past releases and does not signify a positive change in the U Thein Sein administration’s treatment towards Burma’s political prisoners. Once again, political prisoners were conditionally released with no recognition of their political status and with their criminal records intact. Outstanding criminal records have immediate concrete and practical impacts on the freed political prisoners. The discrimination they face, due to their bogus criminal records, prevents them from securing jobs, pursuing university level education, or receiving a passport.

AAPP calls on the U Thein Sein administration to end the policy-level discrimination against Burma’s political prisoners by officially recognizing their existence, immediately releasing them with no conditions with a wiping of their criminal records.

Click here to download the released political prisoners list on 19 November 2012

For more information – Tate Naing (Secretary): +66 (0) 81 287 8751, Bo Kyi (Joint-Secretary): +66 (0) 81 962 8713

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This post is in: Press Release

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