AAPP Urges the Government to Release all Remaining Political Prisoners (2013)

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) expresses displeasure with the manner political prisoners have been released on 17 May, resulting in the release of 23 prisoners, of which 19 are confirmed to be political prisoners. While AAPP (B) welcomes the freeing of any political prisoner, the releases mean little if political prisoners are released with restrictions attached and without a complete wiping of their criminal records.

Among the 19 political prisoners released today is Nay Myo Zin, a charity worker and former army captain who became the first former political prisoner ordered to serve 6 years of his remaining outstanding sentence under Article 401 (1), which sets conditions for a prisoner’s release. Thousands of former political prisoners have been released under Article 401 (1), which gives the President of the Union power to “remit the whole or any part of the punishment to which he has been sentenced” at any time. According to Tate Naing, Secretary of AAPP (B), “Article 401 is a chilling reminder to thousands of former political prisoners of prison’s revolving door.”

Others released on 17 May include Aung Naing, who along with his family, was sentenced in 2005 under bogus charges including Section 18 of the Citizenship Law and the Emergency Provisions Act. Although Aung Naing’s family, including father and former political prisoner U Kyaw Min, has all been released, Aung Naing remained behind bars. In addition, 8 All Burma Student Democratic Front members; a Karen activist; a monk; and a civilian activist were released today.

“Political prisoners are being released in the dark: without knowledge of whether their release is conditional or not. Some are being released while their casemates or family members remain behind bars. The political prisoners left behind suffer psychologically because of this,” said Joint Secretary of AAPP (B) Bo Kyi. “Why, after 2 years of a so-called reformist government, are there still hundreds of political prisoners locked up in Burma? Anyone assessing the reforms must ask themselves this basic question,” added Bo Kyi.

There are at least 164 political prisoners still behind bars. In addition to this there are more than 150 individuals facing trial under political charges. Hundreds of activists and ethnic minorities have also been arrested in Arakan and Kachin States, but exact numbers remain unknown.

In light of the recent inadequate releases, AAPP (B) once again calls on the Government of Burma to immediately and unconditionally free all remaining political prisoners with official recognition as political prisoners, and allow them to properly reintegrate into post-prison life without any governmental restrictions. During President U Thein Sein’s visit to the US, we also urge President Obama to use his leverage to pressure President U Thein Sein to empty all of Burma’s prisons of political prisoners.