07 Jan NGOs concerned govt not serious about freeing political prisoners

Written by Min Min Published in Politics Read 4695 times
The Assistance Association of Political Prisoners has relaunched its "hands campaign" highlighting the number and names of political prisoners who remain incarcerated in Myanmar. Photo collage: AAPP
The Assistance Association of Political Prisoners has relaunched its "hands campaign" highlighting the number and names of political prisoners who remain incarcerated in Myanmar. Photo collage: AAPP

The hands are back. That is the message from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners and Former Political Prisoners Society who are joining hands to use photos of people with prisoner names on outstretched palms as a reminder that well over 150 prisoners of conscience remain in jail in Myanmar.

The groups said in a statement on January 4 that 164 political prisoners are held in Myanmar jails and an extra 203 activists await trial.

According to the two NGOs, while President U Thein Sein announced that he would release all political prisoners by the end of 2013, now as we enter 2015, the remaining – and new – political prisoners have still not been released.

The AAPP, as it is known, has expressed its concern that government efforts in the form of a new committee, just set up, to tackle the issue of “prisoners of conscience” are just a smokescreen for inaction.

AAPP joint-secretary U Bo Kyi, speaking to Mizzima on January 6, complained that most of the members of the newly-reconstituted committee for prisoners of conscience have not done much for the affairs of political prisoners in the past, so they lack experience and the committee will not be effective in working for the benefit of political prisoners.

He said AAPP members, former political prisoner Zarganar, and U Nyo Tun from the League of Former Political Prisoners are not included in the new committee, although they were included in the former committee. Moreover, the new committee has not been assigned specific tasks.

“Then the government will do what they want to do. They reconstituted the committee just for show,” U Bo Kyi said.

The new committee comprises of 16 people from political parties, eight officials from the government, U Hla Maung Shwe from Myanmar Egress, U Sit Myaing, deputy chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, U Ko Ko Gyi from the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, and U Ye Aung from the Former Political Prisoners Society.

U Nyo Tun, co-founder of the League of Former Political Prisoners, said the government has reduced the number of people in the committee who will really work to free political prisoners.

“The committee includes just a few of those people, so I think it may not be effective for political prisoners. They don’t know which prisons have how many political prisoners, so meetings will be just talk and no action,” he said.

Lower House MP U Thein Nyunt, a member of the newly-reconstituted committee, is less downbeat.

He said the new committee will carry out their tasks at the grassroots level, and if necessary will be allowed to go into prisons to carry out its work.

When a tally was taken in 2010, there were more than 2,000 political prisoners in Myanmar. Under the government President U Thein Sein, many prisoners including political prisoners were released under repeated amnesties. As a result, the political situation in the country improved and the government received good marks for its actions.