Fri 30 Sep 2011
Filed under: Inside Burma
New Delhi – After Burma’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin told the UN General Assembly that an unspecified number of prisoners will be released soon, political parties are expressing hope that political prisoners will be included in the release.At the 66th session of the U.N. General Assembly held in New York, Wunna Maung Lwin said that an amnesty would be granted soon.
Ohn Kyaing, the spokesman for the National League for Democracy (NLD), the leading opposition group, said, “I hope [political prisoners] will also be offered [the amnesty]. According to people who recently met with [political] prisoners, we have been encouraged.
“We heard that [authorities] asked [political prisoners] for a brief biography,” he said.
When the new government came into office, hopes were high that all political prisoners would be released under a general amnesty. But, the new president granted a general one-year commutation on May 17.
Under the one-year presidential commutation, about 20,000 prisoners were released, but there were only a few political prisoners among them.
The National Democratic Force (NDF) party said that the amnesty would be effective only if political prisoners are included. Observers said the issue is related to the government’s demand that Western countries lift the economic sanctions imposed on Burma.
NDF leader Khin Maung Swe, who is a former political prisoner, said: “Now, we need to attempt national reconciliation. If political prisoners are not included in the amnesty, it will not be effective. The authorities know it.
“The amnesty was delayed because they seem to be pondering whether an uprising could be sparked off again. They may already have a plan about how to quell an uprising, if it arises. I think they have already identified the contacts among people who have [that] potential.”
According to figures compiled by the Thai-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma, there are 1,955 political prisoners in the country.
On September 27, after the meeting of the “Group of Friends on Burma”, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Burmese government to release all remaining political prisoners and to engage in a constructive dialogue to achieve national reconciliation.