Advocacy and Lobbying
January 25, 2013, was a landmark moment for AAPP. Secretary Ko Tate Naing and Joint Secretary Ko Bo Kyi returned to Burma for the first time since 1999 and 1997 respectively. They have spent much of 2013 inside Burma, setting up two more offices in Rangoon and Mandalay and working tirelessly to support our international and domestic colleagues fighting for the rights of political prisoners. It was during this first visit that AAPP met with Ministers of the President’s Office and began to facilitate a dialogue with the government, as well as with civil society organizations inside Burma.
A fundamental role of AAPP is to ensure the plight of political prisoners remains of fundamental importance to the international community, and to maintain pressure on the government of Burma to release all remaining political prisoners. At the end of 2013, the Burmese government told the world that there were no more political prisoners inside Burma. This was untrue. Under the Scrutinizing Committee definition and lists of names agreed upon, there were still at least 31 political activists still imprisoned in Burma. Countless more continued to be charged and incarcerated. Throughout 2014, AAPP continued to recognize the political activists incarcerated at the as well as campaign and lobby for their release. Although dialogue was difficult and progress slow, the importance of the Scrutinizing Committee was paramount for the future of political prisoners. AAPP Joint Secretary Bo Kyi was a leading member of the Committee well into 2014. At the beginning of 2015, the Scrutinizing Committee was disbanded, and despite AAPP’s dedication and central role in the Committee, the government decided to exclude AAPP from the new body, the Prisoners of Conscience Affair Committee formed in January 2015.
Throughout 2015 the plight of political prisoners continued. In November 2015, Burma made history with the landslide victory of the National League for Democracy (NLD) resulting in the first democratically-elected civilian government in half a century who inaugurated President U Htin Kyaw in March 2016. This presented new opportunities for legislative and policy reform and even some hope for the political prisoners’ situation. Despite promises to release all remaining political prisoners, AAPP are still lobbying and campaigning for the release of hundreds of incarcerated individuals.
Inside Burma, our senior staff hold frequent meetings with the government, civil society groups including the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, National League for Democracy (NLD), Shan-NLD, Former Political Prisoners Society (FPPS), The League of Former Political Prisoners and other influential political figures inside Burma. In order to promote international awareness, Ko Tate Naing and Ko Bo Kyi have travelled across much of Burma and continue to foster our presence and strengthen our relationships with colleagues.
AAPP has also met with numerous international figures in Rangoon, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, UN Special Rapporteurs Tomas Ojea Quintana and Yanghee Lee, representatives from The International Committee of the Red Cross, Freedom House and The Prime Minister of Croatia. AAPP has frequently met with embassies from around the world including USA, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands, Czech Republic, France, UK, Australia and from the European Union. AAPP staff have given speeches at different international conferences across the world, and interviews to numerous international media outlets and domestic news agencies from Burma. These include interviews with the domestic news outlets Democratic Voice of Burma, Irrawaddy, Myanmar Times and Radio Free Asia and internationally with BBC, New York Times, and Voice of America.