Mon 18 Aug 2014
Filed under: Human Rights,Inside Burma,Naypyitaw,News
The government denied reports from some rights organization’s last week that 29 political prisoners remain behind bars despite the government’s promise of an amnesty for all political prisoners by the end of 2013.
U Aung Thein, the Deputy Minister of the President’s Office and the Secretary of the Committee for Scrutinising Remaining Political Prisoners, told The Myanmar Times that those 29 prisoners had violated other laws.
“Some of them imprisoned [for political offences] were found to have broken other penal codes. Some related to drug-abuse cases, some are murderers and bombers. The President has removed the part of their sentences connected to political activities. But they still have to pay for their committed crimes other than political activities,” he said.
Another committee member, U Sai Nyunt Lwin from the SNLD party, predicted that the remaining 29 political prisoners will be given an amnesty because some are members of ethnic armed groups and it would facilitate the ongoing ceasefire talks with the armed groups.
He added that the committee only deals with political prisoners who were imprisoned during military rule, meaning that prisoners charged under existing laws, such as protest laws, under the current government are discounted.
A report by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) released in July said that many individuals remain behind bars and the government continues to arrest and incarcerate new political prisoners. By the end of July, there were 70 political prisoners incarcerated in Myanmar, with approximately 114 accused activists awaiting trial, the group said.
A statement by Amnesty International about remaining political prisoners, also released in July, said, “So far in 2014, at least 59 individuals have been charged and 17 of them imprisoned under a range of laws which restrict the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”
U Ko Ko Gyi, a spokesperson from the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, said that some political activists have recently been charged with unrelated crimes.
“The general definition of the term ‘political prisoners’ encompasses those who are imprisoned while they are trying to protect citizens’ rights. Or they are imprisoned for asking for the rights they deserve. Due to politically related activities, the activists are often accused of unrelated offences,” he said.