Burma to Release Prisoners with ‘Conditions’
11 October 2011: Burma’s government today announced that a total of 6,359 prisoners will be released tomorrow in a move seen as one of another signs towards positive changes in the country.
However, how many ‘political prisoners’ are to be included in Wednesday’s amnesty still remains unclear although the announcement mentioned their release but with no specific numbers.
Yesterday, the National Human Rights Commission sent an open letter to President Thein Sein, making an appeal to free the ‘prisoners of conscience’ but it stopped short of asking for an ‘unconditional’ release.
“Releasing those prisoners who do not pose a risk to national peace, public order and the interests of ethnic nationalities will enable them [prisoners of conscience] to participate the process of nation building,” said the letter.
Sources claimed that the amnesty would include some prominent political prisoners.
Reacting to the announcement Dr. Sui Khar, Secretary-General of the multi-ethnic alliance Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) said, “I hope that all senior political prisoners, including ethnic leaders such as Khun Htun Oo will be included in such an amnesty.”
He said that such a move will be seen as an important move towards irreversible change.
There are 1,998 political prisoners in prisons and labour camps across Burma, according to a report by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The report said: “At least 350 political prisoners are currently imprisoned under the Emergency Provisions Act, and the law is often used to extend the prison terms of political prisoners.”
It also stressed that the immediate removal of the Emergency Provisions Act is necessary if Burma is to protect the rights of its people under the genuine democratic governing system.
Sources say that would-be freed prisoners are obligated to observe some conditions, including a pledge not to engage in political activities within three months of their release.
Meanwhile, calls for an end to the ongoing armed conflict in the ethnic areas, especially in Kachin State in Burma have been made across the globe.
In Malaysia, about 150 ethnic refugees from Burma today protested in front of the Burmese Embassy in Kuala Lumpur against the military attacks in ethnic areas.
Van Biak Thang