Thursday, 14 November 2019

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Opposition groups hope some political prisoners will be granted amnesty

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Even though President Thein Sein made no comment on amnesty for political prisoners in his inaugural speech, some opposition members are hopeful the new government will grant some political prisoners freedom.

Newly installed President Thein Sein could position the new government to grant political amnesty to prisoners in the next few months, but few in the opposition believe that will happen anytime soon. Photo: MRTVWin Hten, a National League for Democracy (NLD) leader, recalled that political prisoners were released in 1962 when the Revolutionary Council led by Ne Win came to power, in 1974 when the Burma Socialist Programme Party was formed, in 1988 when the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) came to power and in 1997 when  SLORC was renamed the State Peace and Development Council.

‘Every new government must take the responsibility to handle the situation regarding political prisoners’, he said. 

He noted that President Thein Sein, in his inaugural speech, made no mention of political prisoners. ‘That is their mistake’, said Win Htein, who was detained 22 years in prison for allegedly sending information to the foreign media.

He said there was a chance amnesty could be granted to political prisoners in April or May.

On the other hand, Tate Naing, the secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), said that the new president may hold personal grudges against political prisoners. 

‘It is clear that he thinks political prisoners are his enemy. So, as far as I’m concerned, even if he granted amnesty, only some prisoners would be released’, Tate Naing told Mizzima.

A source close to the government’s Prison Administrative Department said that to win political favour, the new government was compiling a list of prisoners who will receive amnesty. It is not known if that list would include political prisoners.

On March 24, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, called for an immediate release of political prisoners

On March 22, in the regular parliamentary session of  the Lower House, Sai Hla Kyaw, an MP in the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP) aka White Tiger Party, asked if amnesty would be granted to political prisoners, including Khun Htun Oo. Home Affairs Minister Maung Oo answered that only the president and the National Defense and Security Council have the power to grant amnesty, so it could be carried out only under the new government.

Although several opposition political parties mentioned submitting a motion in Parliament for the release of all political prisoners, no action was taken during the session which ended on Wednesday.


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