In a press release on December 18, the UK-based NGO called on U Win Mra, the chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Council to call for the establishment of a permanent review mechanism for political prisoners, and the immediate release of U Aung Soe and all remaining political prisoners in Myanmar.
Despite the release of hundreds of political prisoners by President U Thein Sein’s reformist government over the last three years, more people are being thrown in jail over peaceful protests or activities the government sees as challenging its authority.
U Aung Soe, a member of Yangon People’s Support Network, has been arrested numerous times for his peaceful activism. On May 18, 2014, he was arrested for his involvement in protests in Mandalay against land grabbing. The protest centred on land confiscated by the Myanmar military and private companies two decades ago.
He was charged with three different counts including under Article 145 for “Joining or continuing in unlawful assembly, knowing it has been commanded to disperse.” He was also charged under Section 505 (b) of Myanmar’s Penal Code. On August 6, 2014, U Aung Soe was sentenced to three years and six months and he is serving his prison sentence in Obo Prison, Mandalay.
The Myanmar government is disbanding the existing political prisoner review committee to create a new one.
Burma Campaign UK says to make this review credible, all political prisoners including U Aung Soe, should be released. They say there should be a permanent independent political prisoner review mechanism involving international expertise in Myanmar.
Ms Anna Roberts, executive director of the NGO, says U Aung Soe’s case is proof that the reform process in Myanmar is backsliding, and more activists are getting arrested for speaking out.
She said activists continue to live in fear of arrest, torture and harassment by the government, adding that a credible review mechanism is crucial to ensure that no political prisoners are left behind bars.