New Delhi (Mizzima) – As many as 918 political prisoners may still be locked up in Burmese prisons, but an accurate list of the number is still incomplete, say groups working on the political prisoner issue.
According to the list compiled by the Thai-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-B), 918 political prisoners are still behind bars. According to the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, 388 are political prisoners are still being detained. The two groups use different criteria in defining a political prisoner. It is possible the exact number may never be known.
The Burmese government does not claim to have an accurate list of political prisoners, because it denies that it has political prisoners in its jails. Occasionally, it refers to the numbers compiled by the AAPP and NLD.
AAPP-B Secretary Teik Naing told Mizzima: “When we rechecked our list, we found that some of them were released but some were handed over to police and some were taken away by military units so that it is very difficult to make a complete list. We can confirm around 900 political prisoners are still behind bars.”
According to NLD spokesman Ohn Kyaing, the number of remaining political prisoners may likely increase and the NLD is still working on the exact numbers.
“According to our list, there were 591 political prisoners, and we found that 303 prisoners were released,” said Ohn Kyaing. “We are compiling a new list by collecting figures based on information from prisoners who were just released, and the new list is almost completed,”
A total of 651 prisoners are believed to have been freed during the January 13 presidential amnesty.
At a press conference in Naypyitaw on January 14, Home Minister Ko Ko said, “There are only prisoners in the prisons who are convicted for the crimes they committed. If you know there are monks who were arrested, please give us an accurate list of them.”
Taik Naing said that the AAPP defined those who were arrested and imprisoned in connection with a political issue as political prisoners.
“Some of these political prisoners were charged and framed up in criminal cases such as a narcotic drug cases, misappropriation cases, gambling cases, etc. But we saw them all as political prisoners because they were arrested for their political activities, and then charged with other cases and imprisoned,” he said.
Ohn Kyaing said the NLD considered those who were imprisoned in bomb blast cases and charged under the Unlawful Associations Act were regarded as political prisoners.
“We list all of them who were charged in bomb blast cases, charged in the “saffron revolution” cases, those who were charged under sections of the Unlawful Associations Act in Taungoo, those who were charged under the Emergency Provisions Act and those who were charged with section 505 of Penal Code (causing disaffection to the State) as political prisoners. And some of them were charged with abetting these political prisoners. We list them also as the political prisoners,” he said.