Junta’s amnesty welcomed in midst of discontent
Friday, 18 September 2009 21:40
New Delhi (Mizzima) – While welcoming the release of a few political prisoners, a veteran politician on Friday said, ‘it is not enough’ and deplored the ruling junta for using the release of political prisoners as a ploy to ease pressure.
Win Tin, a central executive committee member of National League for Democracy, who was also a former political prisoner, said, “Though the numbers may be few, I welcome any release of political prisoners… but it is not enough.”
Burma on Thursday announced amnesty for 7,114 prisoners and on Friday began releasing more than 1,000 prisoners of which about 43 were political prisoners, according to Thailand-based Assistant Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).
Among those released were two journalists, who were arrested in 2008 for helping victims of Cyclone Nargis. But prominent student activists including Min Ko Naing and the monks, who led protests in the September 2007, were not among those freed.
While sources said a total of about 250 political prisoners are likely to be part of the amnesty, Win Tin said it is not to be applauded until all prisoners of conscience are released. “Among the many political problems we have in Burma, political prisoners is also a big stumbling block and the government must release them all as the first step in trying to solve the problem,” he added.
Burma’s military rulers have consistently denied having political prisoners. But Win Tin said, it is shameful for the regime to blatantly make such claims and it reveals the regime’s low intellectual level, as it is known to all that political prisoners are languishing in prisons across the country.
“If we don’t call Aung San Suu Kyi a political prisoner, what do we call her arrest and detention? Win Tin asked and added that “similar is the case of detention of Hkun Tun Oo and other student leaders,”
In July, the Burmese Ambassador to the United Nations Than Swe told the Security Council that his government is preparing to release prisoners in order to allow them to participate in the forthcoming 2010 elections.
The state-run Myanmar TV on Thursday announced that, “The government on humanitarian ground and in consideration of their families, terminated the prison terms of 7,114 prisoners on 17 September 2009 from their respective prisons across the country in order to enable them to serve the interests of the regions, their own and the State after realizing the government’s compassion and goodwill.”
Aye Thar Aung, secretary of the Committee Representing Peoples’ Parliament (CRPP), formed with elected MPs in the 1990 election, said as the number of political prisoners are too few, the amnesty does not indicate the junta’s willingness to begin finding a solution to the long political deadlock in the country.
“If they [junta] have a clear intention of finding a solution, all political prisoners must be released without any condition. But we now see that the junta has effectively locked-up Aung San Suu Kyi in her home and others continue to be detained,” he added.
While the junta might be aiming to ease mounting international pressure by announcing the amnesty, Aye Thar Aung said it is a ploy that the junta had used time and again.
Burma in September 2008 released over 9,000 prisoners that included a few political prisoners, including prominent opposition leader Win Tin, and in February 2009 announced the release of more than 6,000 prisoners, with just a handful of political prisoners among them.
Amnesty International’s Burma researcher, Benjamin Zawacki told Mizzima that the junta’s amnesty should be for political prisoners, without which the amnesty does not have any significance in terms of human rights.
With just over 1,000 prisoners released on Friday, the release will continue on Saturday and the days to come.
Additional reporting by Salai Han Thar San