Rakhine Campaigners Demand Myanmar Releases Political Prisoners

By Min Aung Khine 8 January 2021

Yangon — Rakhine State protesters have called for the release of prominent politician Dr. Aye Maung and other political prisoners.

Activists from across Ann Township on Wednesday evening attached stickers along roads and at the town’s central market, said resident Ko Myo Lwin.

“Dr. Aye Maung is a Lower House lawmaker elected by Ann residents. That’s why our township has started the sticker campaign to demand his release,” he told The Irrawaddy.

In March 2019, Dr. Aye Maung and writer Wai Hin Aung were sentenced to 20 years in prison for high treason under Article 122 of the Penal Code and another two years for sedition under Article 505, to be served concurrently. They were arrested in January 2018 in Sittwe for remarks they made earlier that month at an event in Rathedaung Township commemorating the 233rd anniversary of the fall of the Arakan kingdom to the Burmese in 1785.

In January 2020, the pair lost a special appeal to the Supreme Court of the Union.

Ann residents called for the unconditional release of other political prisoners, including Wai Hin Aung, student activists who protested against human rights violations in the state and war and other ethnic Rakhine campaigners.

Ko Htay Aung from Kan Kyun village, who participated in the sticker campaign, said: “We have conducted the campaign for the release of our representative, Dr. Aye Maung, students and Rakhine citizens who were detained on political charges.”

They said similar campaigns could be expected across the state until their demands are met.

Daw Mya Mya Thet, the wife of Dr. Aye Maung, told The Irrawaddy: “I welcome the demand of Ann residents. People have made demands and politicians have also called for their release. If the government has any union spirit and aspires to national unity and peace, I ask it to release them.”

National League for Democracy (NLD) spokesman Dr. Myo Nyunt said the government has to decide on their release.

The Ministry of Home Affairs is fully controlled by unelected members of Myanmar’s military.

“It is the business of the administration. Our party emphasizes the rule of law. We accept anything legal. It is up to the administration to consider what relaxations it can make,” said Dr. Myo Nyunt.

In October, the Arakan Army (AA) abducted three NLD candidates for Taungup Township. The NLD asked the AA to release the three if the armed group wants to solve ethnic issues and build peace.

After the AA released them on Jan. 1, hopes were high that Rakhine prisoners, including Dr. Aye Maung, would be released on Jan. 4, Myanmar’s Independence Day, when presidential pardons are usually granted. No pardons were granted on Jan. 4.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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