By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
YANGON, Myanmar – Junta released more than 6,000 prisoners after the United Nations human rights rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana concluded his visit last week. Several monks and pro-democracy members were among released prisoners, a party spokesperson and a rights group said. State radio and television reports prisoners were being freed because of their good conduct in jails. These prisoners also would be able to participate in a general election planned for next year.
However, according to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Thailand-based rights group believes “it is just for show”. “This group does not include any policy makers or other key players,” said Tate Naing, the group’s secretary. National League for Democracy spokesperson Nyan Win said he was expecting to hear about additional NLD members freed.
The United Nations human rights rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana noting “The human rights situation in Myanmar is still challenging.” During his visit, Mr. Quintana were not allow to meet with either Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the opposition who is under house arrest, or Burma’s junta chief, Senior General Than Shwe. Mr. Quintana’s mission to Myanmar is to push for the freedom of political prisoners – including Aung San Suu Kyi. The Junta said that they would consider his recommendation, amending some national laws to be more in keeping with international standards.
At the same time, pressure is rising for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit Myanmar again. Aung San Suu Kyi and others have written a letter welcoming a possible visit by the secretary-general to “discuss a broad range of issues,” U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari told reporters after briefing the Security Council on his recent trip to Myanmar. U.N. Security Council members said they would support a visit by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
For more information, please see:
AP – 19 political prisoners released from Myanmar jails – 22 February 2009
AP – Myanmar junta announces 6300 convicts to be freed – 20 February 2009
BBC – Burma rights still ‘challenging’ – 20 February 2009
Reuters – Political prisoners among 6,000 freed in Myanmar – 22 February 2009