Monday, February 23, 2009

Myanmar's junta release prisoners in amnesty

2009-02-23 03:45:42 - Junta regime holds about 2,100 political detainees, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest. Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi prisoner for 13 years of the past 19 years still in detention without trial.Burmese military junta released 12 political prisoners from among over 6,000 prisoners languishing in jails around Burma, away from their families meant to be granted amnesty on Saturday.

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, a Member of Parliament elected in the 1990 elections from Mandalay division's Amarapura township, and Phe Sein from the Moe Nyin township of Kachin state, were released on Saturday from Myitkyina prison in Kachin state, family members said.Thet Wai, chairman of San Chuang township NLD, was also released from Insein prison on Saturday, eyewitness said."They were
released at about 3:45 p.m. (local time). The prison authorities escorted them up to a guest house. Authorities said they are both physically fine, but Dr. Zaw Myint Maung said they will check with a doctor after they reach home to see if they are fine," a close family member of the two prisoners told Mizzima over telephone.
Eleven prisoners including Thet Wai and five Buddhist monks were released from Rangoon Insein jail, and four prisoners including Dr. Zaw Myint Maung were released from Myikyina jail in Kachin State.
In the first batch on Saturday Myitkyina prison authorities released 30 prisoners at about 3:45 p.m. (local time) including 11 elderly women, eyewitnesses said.

Dr. Zaw Myint Maung was arrested in 1990 on charges of planning to form a parallel government and in 1991 he was sentenced to 25 years on charges of committing high-treason against the state.

And in 1997, authorities handed down an extra 12 years on charges of passing on information to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) on the situation in prisons in Burma.He was serving a total of 37 years in prison.

Phe Sein, member of Burma's main opposition party - National League for Democracy - was arrested along with fellow members Kyaw Maung and Ne Win and sentenced to two years each for participating in the 2007 September protests in Myitkyina town in Kachin state.

Though Phe Sein was released on Saturday, his two friends Ne Win and Kyaw Maung remain detained in Myitkyina prison. "I asked about U Ne Win, but they said he is not in the list to be released," Ne Win's wife told Mizzima.

Similarly, Thet Wai, who was arrested in 2008 for complaining about the use of child soldiers to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), was released at about 4:45 p.m. (local time) from Rangoon's notorious Insein prison.

"I saw a prison vehicle move out from the prison at about 4:45 p.m. and saw U Thet Wai was on the vehicle. He peeped out and shouted that 11 had been freed. But I could not recognise the rest of them," said an eyewitness, who closely monitors
political prisoners in Insein prison.Along with Thet Wai, nine other political prisoners were released from Insein prison on Saturday, according to the source.

The political prisoners are four monks from Rangoon's Bakara monastery, two monks from Kaing Kone Monastery, and a monk from Sandar Thuria monastery and a student activist Tun Tun of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions and Khaing Ba Myint from the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP).Burma military rulers on Saturday has started the process of release prisoners across the country, to prove its amnesty to 6,313 prisoners, who the junta said had shown 'Good Conduct and Discipline'.Junta, on Friday announced that the prisoners would be released "on humanitarian grounds and as a gesture of showing sympathy towards their family," and "to enable them to serve the interests of the nation and to participate in the fair elections to be held in the year 2010."

Junta, who has persistently denied the presence of political prisoners in the country, did not mention whether the release would include any of the estimated 2000 political prisoners, who were languishing in prisons across the country.

Besides, the junta's announcement carried by state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar, justified its decisions for sentenced activists and politicians to long prison terms, in recent months saying, they were sentenced for violating the existing law."In building the new nation, the government handed down sentences to those who violated the existing laws, to prison terms in accordance with the law to ensure peace and tranquility and prevalence of law and order," the paper said.

Since August 2008, courts in Burma, have handed down long prison terms to activists, and even their lawyers.But the opposition source in Rangoon said, a few political prisoners in remote prisons of the country, are likely to be among those released. However, so far no one has come out of the prisons. Mizzima reports:

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