Radio Netherlands Worldwide

SSO Login

More login possibilities:

Close
  • Facebook
  • Flickr
  • Twitter
  • Google
  • LinkedIn
Home
Tuesday 2 September  
Myanmar political prisoners released
News Desk's picture
Map
Rangoon, Myanmar
Rangoon, Myanmar

Myanmar releases political prisoners

Published on : 13 January 2012 - 4:33pm | By RNW News Desk (BBC screenshot)
More about:

Myanmar freed at least 200 political prisoners on Friday in an amnesty that could embolden the opposition and put pressure on the West to lift sanctions as one of the world's most reclusive states opens up after half a century of authoritarian rule.

Among those freed are long-persecuted democrats and ethnic leaders whose proven ability to organise and inspire could heap pressure on President Thein Sein to accelerate nascent reforms.

The United States and Europe have said freeing political prisoners is crucial to even considering lifting the economic sanctions that have isolated the former British colony, also known as Burma, and pushed it closer to China during five decades of often-brutal military rule that ended last March.

Resources
As big as France and Britain combined, Myanmar lies between India, China and Southeast Asia with ports on the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea, all of which make it an energy security asset for Beijing's landlocked western provinces and a U.S. priority as President Barack Obama strengthens engagement with Asia.

Its resources include natural gas, timber and precious gems. Myanmar is building a multi-billion-dollar port through which oil can reach a 790-km (490-mile) pipeline under construction with Chinese money and workers.

The 1988 uprising
It was unclear exactly how many political detainees were among the 651 inmates covered by the amnesty, the second ordered by authorities in four months. About 230 political detainees were released in an earlier general amnesty on Oct. 12.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), a group that tracks prisoners, said at least 200 had been freed on Friday. These included Min Ko Naing and other members of the "88 Generation Students Group", who led a pro-democracy uprising in 1988 when thousands of protesters were killed.

Former prime minister
Also freed was Shin Gambira, a Buddhist monk who led 2007 street protests crushed by the army. He was 27 years old when sentenced to 68 years in prison in 2007. Khin Nyunt, the once-powerful chief of military intelligence (MI), was also released from house arrest.

Appointed prime minister in 2003, he ushered in a then-derided seven-point "roadmap to democracy" but was purged a year later in circumstances that were never explained. He had been under house arrest ever since.

Speaking to reporters outside his home in Yangon, Khin Nyunt expressed hope for the country, citing recent meetings between the president and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and visits by dignitaries such as Hillary Clinton, who last month became the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Myanmar in 50 years.

"These are good signs," he said, after stressing he had no plans to return to government. "I'm not going into politics."

Sai Nyunt Lwin, 60, a prominent ethnic Shan politician, said he and all other leaders of his former Shan Nationalities' League for Democracy (SNLD) were freed.

Aung San Suu Kyi
The amnesty is a gamble for Thein Sein, a former general.

Freed dissidents will no doubt strengthen Suu Kyi's movement, but there are also concerns some could push for changes more radical than the government and Suu Kyi want.

Suu Kyi, a 1991 Nobel Peace Prize-winner released in 2010 from 15 years of house arrest, will run in a by-election for parliament in April and has said she trusts the new nominally civilian government that replaced the junta last March.

Karen insurgency
Washington says it is ready to support reforms and possibly lift sanctions, but that political prisoners must be freed first. The United States has also demanded Myanmar make peace with armed ethnic minorities and organise credible elections.

On Thursday, the government signed a ceasefire with ethnic Karen rebels to try to end one of the world's longest-running insurgencies, although fighting still rages with ethnic Kachins in the north. The government has also some eased media controls.

"The government should ensure that there are no obstacles to these activists participating in public life and upcoming elections," rights group Human Rights Watch said in a statement. It called for international monitors to be allowed in to account for political prisoners that might still be behind bars.

Numbers still unclear
The exact number of political prisoners remains unclear.

Rights groups and the United Nations have put it at about 2,100. But Minister for Home Affairs Lieutenant General Ko Ko told U.N. Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana in August the number was 600, or about 400 after the Oct. 12 amnesty.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy put the total on Friday at about 500. It provides help to more than 460 people it considers "prisoners of conscience", said Naing Naing, the party official in charge of assistance. There were "a few dozen" more who did not seek its help, he said.

Bo Kyi, co-founder of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), said those not included some convicted on explosive charges, such as Ko Pyay Aye. His association had identified 1,536 political prisoners before Friday's release.

But diplomats and some analysts question those numbers and say they depend on definitions - whether rebels or those who used force to oppose the government are included, for example.

A review of the AAPP's list of prisoners by European diplomatic missions in Thailand suggested the number of non-combatant "prisoners of conscience" appeared to be about 600, or about 800 before October's amnesty.

 

© Reuters
 

Discussion

Obat Jantung Bengkak Herbal 27 August 2014 - 9:52am

Penyakit Darah Tinggi Sembuh Berkat Obat Tradisional Alami amazon
Yang dimaksud dengan darah tinggi, yaitu semakin meningkatnya tensi darah dalam pembuluh arteri. Apakah apa yang dimaksud dengan pembuluh arteri? Pembuluh Arteri ialah pembuluh pada darah yang mengangkut darah dari organ jantung kemudian disalurkan ke seluruh jaringan dan organ tubuh. http://grosiramazonplus.com/obat-darah-tinggi-herbal-alami/ | http://grosiramazonplus.com/

Marsya 24 August 2014 - 6:47am / USA

Thats just about all I can say. You the majority of absolutely possess built this web site website in to something speciel. You clearly understand what you will work on, youve insured a lot of corners. many thanks www.tipsbidan.com/

Julia 23 August 2014 - 10:32am / USA

It's an excellent article, thanks a great deal for discussing lucky me which i ran to the site. This is really a amazing document, thanks with regard to posting best part that I came across this specific blog web page. Insured Profits

white sox 28 April 2012 - 1:08pm / USA

The earliest known reference to baseball is in a 1744 British publication, A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, by John Newbery royals. It contains a rhymed description of "base-ball" and a woodcut that shows a field set-up somewhat similar to the modern game though in a triangular rather than diamond configuration, and with posts instead of ground-level bases. white sox

Post new comment

Please be reminded all comments must be in English, short and to the point - guideline 250 words. Abusive and inappropriate comments will be removed.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <p> <br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

RNW on Facebook

RNW Player

Video highlights

Ladies on the move
RNW is keen on featuring inspiring women in our target countries, women who...
What about men?
In many countries, men don't stick around to raise their children. This is...