By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar’s military junta claims its recent release of several political detainees and about 9,000 other prisoners marks the dawn of a new political era and another milestone in its roadmap to “disciplined democracy”. At least four other prominent former members of the NLD were also released. The mass release of prisoners has come as a surprise to diplomats and residents in Yangon.
Win Min, the country’s longest serving political prisoner and a veteran journalist and political activist, among those freed last week, says that the release probably signals the start of Junta’s preparations for the national elections in 2010. The mass release of prisoners has come as a surprise to diplomats and residents in Yangon. Suu Kyi, however, remains under house arrest in the Yangon residence where she has spent more than 13 of the last 19 years, with no sign she will be freed any time soon.
However, according to Human Rights Watch, repression in Burma has increased since the ruling military government crushed pro-democracy protests a year ago. A report released by Human Rights Watch last week, says some 2,100 political prisoners are in Myanmar’s jails while “pseudo-political reforms” go on. It also accuses the international community of failing to demand real reform and accountability from Myanmar’s military junta.
The crackdown that began on September 26, 2007, was a brutal response to growing protests in Myanmar. Buddhist monks in Rangoon, Mandalay, and other towns across Myanmar staged peaceful marches to protest government policies and poor living standards. “Last September, the Burmese people courageously challenged their military rulers, and they were answered with violence and contempt,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The repression continues. While a handful of political activists have been released, more are being arrested and thousands remain in prison.”
The group acknowledges that seven political activists were among thousands of prisoners recently released by Burmese authorities. But it says about 39 political activists were arrested in August and September alone. It also says the authorities have done nothing to bring justice to the perpetrators of extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and torture during last year’s crackdown.
For more information, please see:
Asia Times – False dawn in Myanmar – 27 September 2008
BBC – Burmese gloom one year after protests – 25 September 2008
BBC – No progress in Burma, says group – 25 September 2008
Human Rights Watch – Burma: One Year After Violent Crackdown, Repression Continues – 26 September 2008