The Myanmar authorities announced October 7 that the prisoners would be released in an amnesty, but none of the country’s prisoners of conscience – activists detained solely for peacefully expressing their views – will be included in the release, notes the human rights organization.
“This is nothing but an empty gesture on the authorities’ part,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director in a press release. “The timing, so close to the ASEAN summit in Myanmar in early November, smacks of political opportunism.”
He said that if the authorities were genuine about improving respect for human rights, they would follow through on the long-standing promise to clear the country’s jails of the dozens of peaceful activists.
According to the human rights group, Myanmar’s repressive laws continue to silence dissent and to target those who peacefully oppose the government.
“We are still receiving reports of human rights defenders, land rights activists, journalists, political activists and others being imprisoned for nothing more than expressing their opinions,” Mr Bennett said. “As long as these detentions continue, amnesties like the one [October 7] do nothing to improve Myanmar’s human rights situation.”
Amnesty says that among the new prisoners of conscience in Myanmar in 2014 is Ko Htin Kyaw, the leader of community-based Movement for Democracy Current Force who is currently serving 11 years and four months in prison for his involvement in a series of peaceful protests and for making speeches and distributing leaflets critical of the government.