Thu 5 Dec 2013
Filed under: Human Rights,Inside Burma,News
The remaining 82 people in Myanmar’s jails who are regarded as being political prisoners will be assessed in the coming weeks to determine if they should be released under a presidential pardon, it was revealed on December 2.
U Ye Aung, a spokesperson for the government’s Committee for Scrutinizing Remaining Political Prisoners, said it would begin re-evaluating the 82 prisoners on December 7 and send the list to President U Thein Sein at the end of December.
The list has been jointly compiled by the Former Political Prisoners’ Association and the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).
The committee, chaired by President’s Office Minister U Soe Thane, will determine whether those on the list meet the definition of a political prisoner and whether they should be released, said U Ye Aung, himself a former political prisoner.
“We worry that we might have left some political prisoners off the list; if we discover more, we will include them on the list for the President,” U Ye Aung said.
President U Thein Sein said during a visit to Britain in July that there would be no “prisoners of conscience” in Myanmar’s jails by the end of the year.
At a meeting with political parties on November 10, President’s Office Minister U Aung Min was reported as saying they should submit their lists of political prisoners to the committee by December 30 to enable President U Thein Sein to fulfill his promise.
U Ye Aung said most of the 82 had been convicted under Section 447 of the Penal Code, dealing with criminal trespass, and Section 17 (1) of the Unlawful Associations Act, while others had been sentenced under Section 221 (1) of the Penal Code, dealing with high treason. Some had received five consecutive life sentences, he said.
A spokesperson for the Former Political Prisoners’ Association, U Thet U, said that if necessary it would submit the list after December 30.
“The President gave us a mandate to scrutinize the political prisoners and we will continue to work on the submission if there is no deadline: releasing them or not is up to the President,” U Thet U said.
Since his inauguration in March 2011, President U Thein Sein has pardoned prisoners 13 times and more than 1,100 political prisoners have been freed, show figures compiled by the Former Political Prisoners’ Association.
The previous military regime denied that there were any political prisoners in Myanmar.