Among the Burmese political prisoners released on Tuesday were three members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), Burma’s leading opposition party, but the largest group was affiliated with the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF), an armed group of students formed after the political violence of 1988, Amnesty International (AI) said in a statement on Thursday.
Among the released was ethnic Karenni political activist Khun Kawrio, who was given a lengthy jail term for his peaceful political activism during 2008. He was sent to a prison far from his home, making family visits difficult, and subjected to torture during interrogation, said AI.
“While we welcome the latest releases, it is crucial that the Burmese authorities release all other remaining prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs,” said Benjamin Zawacki, an AI Burma researcher:
He said, “At least 400 more political prisoners remain behind bars in Burma. Even if they are alleged to have committed or advocated violence, they should be afforded a fair trial under an internationally recognized offence, or be released.”
The number of political prisoners remaining in jail is not clear, say activists, because the government does not recognize holding prisoners of conscience, saying all prisoners have violated existing laws. The sentences of the political prisoners released varied from three years to one person serving a life term.
The state-run newspaper, The New Light of Myanmar, said 46 Burmese citizens were released “with a view to ensuring the stability of the State and making eternal peace” and “national reconciliation.” Thirty-four foreign prisoners were also released in the amnesty.
Zawacki said: “Since there are undoubtedly political prisoners in Burma whose names have not been recorded — particularly in ethnic minority areas — this review process should go well beyond even the longest of the outstanding lists.
“For some of those released, psycho-social problems including post-traumatic stress disorder for victims of torture and solitary confinement, will require urgent attention and resources for rehabilitation purposes,” he said.