The Burmese government is planning to free all remaining political prisoners by July, claims a senior Naypyidaw insider.
Industry Minister Soe Thane said during a meeting in Oslo, Norway, where opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was speaking that reformist President Thein Sein intends to release all remaining political prisoners next month, reported AFP.
He added that Thein Sein is committed to democracy like Nobel Laureate Suu Kyi.
Soe Thane explained that the government is currently reviewing the issue to ensure violent criminals are not included in the release, a point that a leader of the 88 Students Generation group called “controversial.”
Mya Aye, himself a former political prisoner, told The Irrawaddy that, “There is a gray area between political prisoners and violent criminals. For example, many are sentenced under the [Unlawful Association Law] Article 17 (1) and (2) which define contacting unlawful organizations and talking part in their activities.”
He argued that all political prisoners should be released because they were either sentenced under unjust laws like the Electronics Act, or convicted for obsolete offenses such as contacting unlawful organizations—many of which are no longer banned.
“Now many changes are taking place such as the suspension of economic sanctions, easing media restrictions and peace talks with ethnic nationalities,” added Mya Aye.
“If the government releases the remaining political prisoners, it will have a huge and positive impact on political and economic reforms and the international response.”
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), a total of 470 political prisoners remain incarcerated across the country. In early 2012, more than 2,000 were released after Thein Sein began engaging in dialogue with democracy icon Suu Kyi.
“If the would-be released prisoners want to join 88 Generations Group, they are more than welcome,” added Mya Aye. “We will work together for a prosperous, democratic country.”