March 23, 2003
On May 6, 2002, the Burmese military government
claimed that a new page had been opened in the political history
of the country and that people could freely engage in politics.
At the same time, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was released from under
Therefore, the people of Burma supposed
that political changes would follow.
However, ten months after the release of the statement, appalling
human rights abuses continue such as: deaths in custody, imprisonment
even after one's sentence is completed, conditional releases,
disappearances from prisons and arrests of activists. Because
of these ongoing abuses, it's clear that the junta's claim of
"turning a new page" was only a pretence designed to
win international support.
According to our knowledge, at least 75
activists were arrested during the last ten months.
There has been no visible progress in health
care for political prisoners. The junta never comments about the
issue of prisoners' deplorable health conditions and deaths in
custody preferring to try to cover up this information. According
to our knowledge, at least 82 political prisoners have died in
prisons under the junta' rule.
Aung May Thu, 61, a member of National
League for Democracy died in Tharawaddy on September 17, 2002.
Sithu, 31, a student leader, also died at the same prison in 2002.
At that time, their prisons sentences were already completed.
However, they were still imprisoned at the time of their deaths.
In Burma, 26 political prisoners are still
in notorious prisons although their prison sentences are completed.
UN special rapporteur on human rights, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro,
has asked many times for their unconditional release, as he is
concerned for their mental and physical health condition. So far
the junta still keeps them imprisoned. We strongly want to point
out that those prisoners were put in prisons soon after the junta
seized the power. They have been in prison for 14 years and have
faced many terrible ordeals including torture.
The UN special rapporteur also pointed
out in 2002 that Burma has 1448 political prisoners. During the
last ten months, 355 political prisoners were released according
to the junta's claims. Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmese democracy leader,
continuously points out that the rate of release is too slow.
There were no releases between November 21 and March 16, 2003.
The junta claimed that 115 were released on November 21. However,
we could confirm that only 61 prisoners were released.
Both the International community, including
the United Nations and Burmese organizations, including the National
League for Democracy have continuously asked the junta to free
unconditionally all political prisoners.
Activists released during the last ten
months have been only conditionally released.
They have had to sign an undertaking to observe Section 401 of
the Criminal Procedure Code. This means that they had to agree
that they would not take part in any political activities before
they would be released.
In the last Nine months of 2002, 15 political
prisoners disappeared from various prisons in Tenasserim Division,
where they were being detained. At least seven, and possibly all
15 are feared to have been killed after being removed from prison
by military authorities.
The people are getting poorer and the country
is facing a general decline 15 years after the junta seized the
power. We are disappointed, as the junta is obviously not interested
in political changes despite appearances ten months ago. It's
clear that the junta's policy on political prisoners hasn't changed
Torture and deaths in prisons, atrocious
health conditions and long indefinite terms of imprisonment are
systematic and routine occurrences under the junta. It is not
advantageous for anyone in Burma for these horrible crimes to
continue. For the good of our country we demand the immediate
and unconditional release of all political prisoners.
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners