Burma Faces Mounting Pressures to Release Political Prisoners
16 November 2011: The new government of Burma is facing mounting pressures to immediately release all political prisoners across the country with no condition attached.
A group of Buddhist monks staged a protest at a monastery in Mandalay earlier this week, with a banner hanging on the building wall that reads ‘Free All Political Prisoners’.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP – Burma) estimates that there are currently 1,668 prisoners of conscience still detained in Burma, despite a recent amnesty granted to just under 300 political prisoners.
Critics have accused Burma of using prisoners of conscience as pawns in trying to convince regional and world governments that it is pursuing serious reforms.
Burma Campaign UK said: “Burma’s government is using political prisoners as human bargaining chips, releasing small numbers to gain positive publicity in an attempt to get sanctions lifted without making fundamental democratic reforms.”
Andrew Mitchel, UK Secretary of State for International Development, who is on an official visit to Naypyidaw this week, has also called on Burma to release the remaining political prisoners.
Late last month, the Zomi National Congress (ZNC) in Burma called on Thein Sein’s government to free Chin political prisoners, including Ko Kyaw Soe (aka) Kam Lam Khup, Kam Khan Khual and Go Pian Sing, who are serving lengthy jail sentences.
At least seven Chins were among the 6,359 prisoners released on 12 October in Burma, according to sources. The number of Chin political prisoners incarcerated in Burma still remains unknown.
Meanwhile, speculations have recently mounted over the fate of two leading members of the Chin National Front (CNF), Uk Lian Thang and That Ci, who were captured more than 10 years ago as details of their whereabouts are since unknown.
An announcement has been made, according to sources, ahead of the upcoming ASEAN summit that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is to visit Burma later this week to meet with President Thein Sein.
Reporting by Thawng Zel Thang