Govt Releases 66 Prisoners, Mostly Political Detainees

Letyar Htun (center, in dark blue shirt and dark longyi) poses with other prisoners released from Tharrawaddy Prison on Nov. 19, 2012. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Almost all of the 66 prisoners freed by Burma’s government on Monday as part of an amnesty to mark a historic visit to the country by US President Barack Obama were political detainees, according to activist groups monitoring the release.

By some accounts, all but one of the prisoners released today were political activists or members of ethnic armed groups, including several who were facing the death penalty for treason.

Earlier in the day, the Rangoon-based Former Political Prisoners Group reported that at least two-thirds of the released prisoners had been held for political reasons. Later, however, the 88 Generation Students group put the figure at 65.

Included among the released prisoners were members of the Karen National Union, the Shan State Army and the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF), the outlawed “student army” formed after Burma’s failed 1988 pro-democracy uprising.

Letyar Htun, a former student activist who was one of a dozen prisoners released today from the notorious Tharrawaddy Prison in Pegu Division, told The Irrawaddy that the prison still holds at least 14 other political prisoners.

“It’s like they’re using political prisoners as political bargaining chips,” said Letyar Htun, adding that five ABSDF members had been allowed to leave the prison.

Today’s amnesty comes just 10 days after the ABSDF requested the release of 30 of its members during talks in Chiang Mai, Thailand, with the government’s chief peace negotiator, President’s Office Minister Aung Min.

At least two other ABSDF members were also released from Mandalay Prison, including Aung Thiha, who had been sentenced to death in April 2000 on charges of high treason, and Maung Maung Oo, who was also facing the death penalty for his alleged role in a 2006 market bombing in Tamu Township, Sagaing Division.

“The political prisoner release should have been done on another day, not on the same day that US President Obama is visiting the country,” said Maung Maung Oo, adding that at least three dozen political prisoners remain in Mandalay Prison.

Kyaw Htay, a member of the opposition National League for Democracy, was also released from Mandalay Prison, after serving 12 years of a 28-year sentence for high treason.

Human rights activist Myint Aye, the founder of the Human Right Defenders and Promoters Network, was released from Loikaw Prison in Karenni State and is heading home to Rangoon, said the group’s leader, Maung Maung Lay.

Activist lawyer Saw Kyaw Kyaw Min, who was sentenced to six months imprisonment after he returned to the country from the Thai-Burmese border in August, was released from Rangoon’s infamous Insein Prison along with nine others activists, said Ba Myo Thein of the Former Political Prisoners Group.

Ba Myo Thein said his group welcomed the release, but added that the number of freed prisoners was smaller than expected. According to the group, there are more than 200 political prisoners still behind bars.

Of the prisoners released today, he said: “They should have been freed a long time ago. The fact that they were released today shows that they are just being used for political gain.”

This is the second prisoner amnesty announced by President Thein Sein in less than a week. Last Thursday,452 detainees were released, none of them prisoners of conscience.

2 Responses to Govt Releases 66 Prisoners, Mostly Political Detainees

  1. The Burmese Freedom Fighter

    This is a great news that Burma needs to do more. Human lives should not be a bargaining chip for whatever purpose one might have. What a point not to release all the political prisoners! 

    It has been almost 2 years now sine the window of secrecy of military leaders is opened to the opposition by inviting them to the parliament.  We want no more alibi of U Thein Sein administration, saying that it doesn’t know exact number of political prisoners in Burma’s jails. Stop outright lie and repeated insult to the whole nation of Burma. It is waste of time to play hide and seek with the lives of humans being locked up for their beliefs.  After all, this is for the interest of both military and the people of Burma, and an easy shot to gain more points for Burmese military in claiming it has brought the change to Burma. 

    Having political prisoners means sitting on a chair of unpredictable volcano where the fears over run all the positive momentum of change in Burma. The clock of patient of Burmese people is ticking when the decision of current administration gives probability for the fate of future Burma for its good or bad path. Don’t wait until the patient of Burmese people run out for that would not serve the interest of overall nation. 

    Release all the political prisoners now!

    The Burmese Freedom Fighter

  2.  Dear Moe Aung
    I agree with you. Obama also knows those dirty tricks from the immature bama military government who thinks they can cheat the world with their low education. However, Obama should set condition when he donates money for restoration of Rangoon University. The condition is that all political prisoners and all the  ethnics must have special chance, privilege  to get all university admission, particularly medicine , engineering, law, computing  and finance and economics.   Previously ,  most children of bama military and crony get special privilege to get university admission with their corrupted money and special tutoring for exam questions. If Obama is not free to visit Burma again, let the beauty and strong Ms.  Clinton ( well experienced in foreign policy, far far better than communist China )  should comes to Burma more  and more and frequently for the sake of the all ethnics and political prisoners.
    Cheer Ms. Clinton,
    The election victory of Obama is part of your crucial effort. All American love you and behind you  due to  your broader and tolerant mind in addition to your smart foriegn policy.  You, Ms Clinton brilliantly offers the way for Obama success as well as your husband.  The world, especially woman respect you so i hope you should be the next American president.  Please, come more to Burma and we, Burmese people sincerely will serve you with the best Burmese dinner, including Moghinga ( our national food).  However, do not forget Burmese ethnic-ga and Rohingya as well. Please, tell than shwe and thein sein that the current bama immigration law is baseless , unfairness and all other bama laws are implemented from the one’s dictator mouth through radio and TV.  You , Ms Clinton has Harvard law degree so you have right and freedom to speak about Laws. The ethnics and Rohingya issues are originally messed up or manipulated by all bama rulers. If bama rulers  need to make use of them ( all Burmese ethnics and Rohingya) , those dirty rulers  recognize their stay and existing in Burma.  If those rulers do not need them , they will persecute or imprison those ethnics, Rohingya and all oppositional politicians. Do consider to shake hand with Min Ko naing who should be the next Burmese president with the support of all  ethnics as well i hope  after DASSK. Let Min Ko Naing to study in Harvard USA if he agrees to do so. 

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