Unconditional amnesty for political prisoners: President

CREDIT EMG 5 JUNE 2013

Myanmar’s government has no intention of enforcing Section 401 of the Code of Criminal Procedure in the granting of amnesty to political prisoners, President Thein Sein said in a radio speech on Tuesday.  

“The government is releasing political prisoners with a view to forging national reconciliation. Apart from taking a certain period of time, it has no intention to make political gains over this. Therefore, all the prisoners of conscience will be released soon,” Thein Sein said in his speech.

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Myanmar’s Code of Criminal Procedure states in Section 401 that if any condition on which a sentence has been suspended is not fulfilled, the President of the Union may cancel the suspension and the person will have to serve the remaining portion of the sentence. In the past, Section 401 has been controversial in the release of political prisoners who were pardoned only to be arrested again under various charges.

“We have no intention to enforce Section 401 as a political tool in granting amnesty for political prisoners,” the President said.

However, he warned that those who have committed crimes such as violence, murder and rape in the name of politics would have to serve their sentences. Thein Sein said he had already explained this to relevant organizations when he was in the United States and they accepted it.

President Thein Sein has been delivering speeches on the state-owned Myanmar Radio and Television on a monthly basis since the beginning of this year.

In his Tuesday’s radio speech, Thein Sein also said his government would relentlessly cooperate with political and social organizations, as well as the public, in an effort to push the reform process forward.

“As a leader who is maneuvering the country’s reforms amid big challenges, uncertainties and hindrances, I am committed to carrying out these reforms with an energetic goodwill and effort, based on the cooperation of the government, Parliament, political forces, civil society, the military and the entire nation,” said the President.

Thein Sein recounted his meetings with President Obama and U.S government top officials, the Senate and Congress members, during his visit to the United States last month. He said he could build the necessary trust to erase sanctions against Myanmar, which are a hindrance to rebuilding the economy. During his visit, he received a warm welcome as well as criticism based on doubts over his reform agenda.

“It is natural that every country has to face such disagreements, disbeliefs and conflicts. But in my view, being pragmatic in politics is more important,” Thein Sein said.

“For the success of Myanmar’s reforms, it is crucial for the country to engage with the outside world. The government is therefore making earnest efforts to enable Myanmar to stand as a credible and responsible country, one in which both supporters and dissidents can bear the fruits of these reforms.”

In his speech, the President also outlined government initiatives to ensure farmers and small to medium enterprises receive small loans as capital to cover for cultivation costs.

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