By Karen Diep
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar – Yesterday, Myanmar released about 60 political prisoners in new amnesty a day after the Myanmar government claimed it would pardon hundreds of inmates. According to BBC News, Myanmar has released more than 500 prisoners, including a number of political detainees and foreigners.
“We’re optimistic that these are the remaining political prisoners,” said Naing Naing, a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition National League of for Democracy (NLD). However, human rights advocates are skeptical and cautioned that the exact number of political prisoners is unknown.
“While another prisoner amnesty is welcome in principle, like everyone else we’re left waiting to see the list before we assess how many political prisoners are included, what it means and how significant it is,” shared Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s Deputy Director for the Asia Division.
“The problem is there is a lack of transparency from the Burma government about who is a political prisoner, where they are, and how many are left,” continued Mr. Robertson.
According to France 24, the exact number of political detainees still imprisoned varies but opposition groups have estimated 300 activists.
This act by the Myanmar government seems to be an attempt for the United States (U.S.) to further alleviate sanctions ahead of President Thein Sein’s visit to the United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly in New York City this September.
“I think political prisoners are bargaining chips for Thein Sein’s policies,” said Bo Kyi, the Joint Secretary of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
According to Boston News, after fifty years of military rule, the Myanmar government’s linchpin in policy reform is political prisoners’ freedom.
On Monday, the European Union (EU) advised preferential trade status for Myanmar. According to the Wall Street Journal, Myanmar authorities are optimistic the U.S. will continue to ease its sanctions when President Thein Sein visits New York City. Moreover, U.S. officials are currently contemplating how and when to ease a ban on Myanmar made-products.
For further information, please see:
Boston News – Myanmar is called insincere on political prisoners – 18 September 2012
France News – Burma releases political prisoners in new amnesty – 18 September 2012
BBC News – Burma releases 500 prisoners in amnesty – 17 September 2012
Wall Street Journal – Myanmar Releases Prisoners as Suu Kyi Visits U.S. – 17 September 2012