Thu 28 Apr 2011
Filed under: Inside Burma
Chiang Mai – The festering issue of a general amnesty for political prisoners was addressed again this week, this time by five ethnic political parties who issued a joint statement urging the government to release all political prisoners for the sake of national reconciliation.
The statement was issued in Rangoon on Wednesday by a group calling itself the Brotherhood Forum, made up of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party, the All Mon Region Democratic Party, the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), the Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party and the Chin National Party.
“The government should announce a general amnesty’, said RNDP secretary Hla Saw, adding that he is a former political prisoner who was released from prison in 1980 under a general amnesty.
The release of political prisoners has so far not even been mentioned by the leaders of the new government. Consecutive Burmese governments have repeatedly said that there are no political prisoners in the country, contending that all those in prison are there because they violated laws. However, international organizations and the Burmese democratic opposition say that there are more than 2,000 political prisoners.
According to the new Constitution, the president has the power to grant amnesty in accordance with the recommendation of the National Defence and National Security Council.
Other issues raised in the joint statement included the need to find a way to permanent peace in ethnic regions, to narrow the developmental gap between the states and regions and to seek help from the international community for underdeveloped ethnic regions which have suffered from long periods of war.
In early April, the Group of Democratic Party Friends, an alliance of six political parties, urged the new government to hold an all-inclusive Union Conference to seek a solution to end the civil conflicts in Burma and to declare a general political amnesty.
In his inaugural address, President Thein Sein said the government would carry out it duties in accordance with the Constitution. Thein Sein, who is also chairman of the Special Project Implementation Committee, said on April 22 the government needs to implement special development projects in the states and regions.
However, he has said nothing about the issue of amnesty for political prisoners.