Burma prisoner amnesty: 12 Oct releases

We will be keeping you updated with breaking news as the day progresses. Updates in Rangoon time (+6.30 GMT). Confirmation hard to get, so note when labelled rumour

Final: Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPPB) circulates list of 206 political prisoners released on 12 October. Still not clear whether the amnesty will stretch over several days, although at the time of writing no more have be freed.

18.25pm: Breakdown of past amnesties (from Altsean):

DATE                          TOTAL                  POL. PRIS           PERCENT

18 Nov 2004               3,937                            28                    0.7%
29 Nov 2004               5,311                            12                   0.2%
13 Dec 2004                5,070                           21                   0.4%
3 Jan 2005                   5,588                           26                   0.5%
6 Jul 2005                    334                             253                  75.7%
3 Jan 2007                   2,831                           50                   1.7%
23 Sept 2008               9,002                          10                    0.1%
20 Feb 2009                6,313                           24                    0.4%
17 Sept 2009               7,114                           28                   1.8%
16 May 2011                14,578                        55                    0.1%
TOTAL                        60,078                       607                 1.0%

18.07pm: Among six released from Kamti prison is high-profile activist Su Su Nway, who was sentenced to 12 years in 2008. She was the first activist to successfully sue the regime.

18.02pm: The National League for Democracy (NLD) has released a list of 184 political prisoners it says were released today. More details soon…

17.37pm: Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma (AAPPB) has counted 118 political prisoners released so far.

17.26pm: News in from Weekly Eleven. Six of the 448 prisoners freed from Kalay jail are political prisoners. They are:

Myint Naing (human rights activist, originally from Henzada, Irrawaddy. Arrested in 2007)
Myo Gyi (originally from Tamwe, Rangoon)
Thein Lwin Oo (originally from North Okkalapa, Rangoon. Jailed for meeting with ILO in 2005)
Aye Cho (originally from Pyawbwe, Mandalay)
Min Aung (originally from Taunggok, Arakan)
Aung Aung (member of the armed Chin National Front)

17.00pm: Still no sign that influential leaders of the 88 Generation Students’ Group (such as Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi) will be released. Sister of Min Ko Naing, who earlier confirmed his name was not on the release list, said: “We are used to these ups and downs”.

Reuters reporting that around 300 political prisoners have been released.

16.47pm: Some sobering comments on today’s events:

Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch: “Those political prisoners released have suffered immeasurably and should never have been put in Burma’s miserable jails in the first place. The laws that put them behind bars are still on the books and can be used again at any time. If the government wants to show it is really different from its predecessors, it should convene parliament and repeal laws criminalising peaceful political speech.”

Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International: “It is disappointing. We had reason to expect, given the rather fast and qualitative steps that have taken place over the past several months, that today’s release would be more substantial numerically than these preliminary reports are telling us.” (Reuters)

Aung San Suu Kyi: “We hope many more will be released.” (Reuters)

Zarganar, released comedian: “I don’t feel good because my heart is heavy with the knowledge of those who continue to be kept behind bars … Based on my current experiences I dare not think changes are real and big this time either … the release of prisoners was just a sprinkle – way too little…” (Weekly Eleven)

16.26pm: Right, so we’ve got the names of exactly 100 political prisoners released so far today. Human Rights Watch sent an email round earlier saying that “at least 120” have been freed. Still trying to discover fate of monk Ashin Gambira…

15.54pm: Monk Ashin Thondara, jailed for 30 years in 1988, has been released from Mandalay’s Obo prison, as have three National League for Democracy (NLD) members.

Other names we’ve seen (source – Weekly Eleven):

Shwe Htoo (Taunggyi prison), Win Maw (Sittwe prison), Ko Ko Gyi (Buthidaung prison), Lin Lin Maw (Shwebo prison).

15.07: Insein prison releases so far (source – Weekly Eleven news journal):

Win Aye (member of All Burma Federation Students’ Union)
Aye Thi Khing (female, imprisoned for meeting with ILO in Mae Sot about low workers’ salary in 2005)
Aye Chan (female, imprisoned for meeting with ILO in Mae Sot about low workers’ salary in 2005)
Yin Kyi (female, imprisoned for meeting with ILO in Mae Sot about low workers’ salary in 2005)
Than Than Htay (female, imprisoned for meeting with ILO in Mae Sot about low workers’ salary in 2005)
Aung Moe Lwin (National League for Democracy youth member)

14.15pm: Aung San Suu Kyi welcomes release:

14.37pm: Karen National Union members Saw Ba Moe and Myint Aung among five political prisoners freed from Kathar prison.

Weekly Eleven says four political prisoners – Sein Hlaing, Toe Kyi, Nyi Nyi (a.k.a Ye Thu Ko) and Wunna Aung – released from Pegu prison.

Names of the six freed from Moulmein prison:

Phyo Phyo Aung (female member of All Burma Federation Students’ Union, jailed for burying corpses following Cyclone Nargis in 2008)
Thet Oo (has served 15 years, jailed for links to armed All Burma Students’ Democratic Front)
Moe Htet Hlyan (monk Ashin Gambira’s brother-in-law)
Zaw Win (more details soon)
Maung Maung (more details soon)
Myint Swe (more details soon)

14. 16pm: A few facts about prisons in Burma:

There are 44 prisons and around 100 labour camps spread across Burma. Insein prison in Rangoon was built by the British in 1871 to house around 5,000 inmates, but the current capacity is thought to be almost double that.

The majority of political prisoners are held in Insein – the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPPB) puts the Insein prison figure at 266. Of the total 1,240 political prisoners accounted for since AAPPB updated its list today, 67 are female.

An official from the Prison Administration Department said last year that there are only 109 medical staff assigned to prisons and camps across Burma, which are thought to hold some 200,000 inmates in total – effectively one doctor for every 8000 prisoners. Only 32 are fully qualified.

Many of the jails are in remote parts of the country, largely along the border with China. Analysts say that locating prisoners at great distance from their families amounts to psychological torture. Conditions in a lot of the jails, particularly in northern Shan state and northern Kachin state, are often harsh – freezing winters, and hot and humid summers, inviting rampant malaria.

Some interesting (albeit old) reading on Burma’s prisons and labour camps here and here.

Our Free Burma VJ campaign website has an interactive prison map.

13.56pm: Generation Wave members Arkar Bo from Kyaukphyu prison and Aung Pyi Phyo (a.k.a Pho Htaung) from Taungoo prison released, according to GW member Zayar Thaw, who was freed in May this year.

No political prisoners appear to be among the 18 inmates released from Mandalay prison this morning.

13.50pm: Quote from Zarganar (AP): “I am not happy at all, as none of my 14 so-called political prisoner friends from Myitkyina prison are among those freed today. I will be happy and I will thank the government only when all of my friends are freed.”

13.36pm: Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP) has updated its database and says 1,240 political prisoners are behind bars in Burma. As far as we can tell, the list doesn’t account for those released so far today.

13.30pm: Sister of Min Ko Naing says he is not on the prisoner release list, according to a source in Rangoon.

13.23pm: Raw footage from outside Insein prison in Rangoon yesterday afternoon. Awaiting footage from today.

 

13.20pm: Generation Wave member Aye Thida (female) released from Henzada prison in Irrawaddy division after being sentenced to 11 years in 2008 for her work with the underground activist group.  National League for Democracy member Thant Zaw also freed from Henzada.

Six of the 20 political prisoners in Moulmein jail now free. Getting more details…

12.56pm: From Taungoo prison in Pegu division (still getting more precise details on prisoners’ charges):

Nyi Nyi Oo (handed 30 years in 1989 for the Thanlyin Oil Refinery bombing)
Saw Myint Naing (24 years imprisonment in 1999 under 5-j)
Aye Shwe (24 years imprisonment in 1999 under 5-j)
Zaw Ye Win (17 year sentence under 5-j)
Aung Aung (a.k.a Aung Thant Zin Oo)
Aung Zay Phyo (a.k.a Zaw Gyi)

12.43pm: San San Tin (female, five-year sentence) and Nyunt Win rumoured released from Meikthila prison in Mandalay division. Both jailed for role in September 2007 uprising. Six political prisoners remain in Meikthila jail.

12.32pm: Digging around rumours that Min Ko Naing (prominent student leader, jailed for 65 years for role in September 2007 uprising) will be released. No one sure. Rumours that Mya Aye, also 88 Generation Student leader, is on release list, but again, cannot confirm.

12.20pm: From Yemethin prison in Magwe division:

Thaw Zin Htun (ABFSU)
Nay Zar Myo Win (ABFSU)
Sai Moe Htwe (ABFSU)
Ashin Kawthala (monk), jailed following 2003 Taungoo riot
Ashin Zawana (monk), jailed following 2003 Taungoo riot
Ashin Pandiwuntha (monk), jailed following 2003 Taungoo riot)
Ashin Thawdana (monk), jailed following 2003 Taungoo riot

12.12pm: Insein prison releases so far: 564 male, 78 females (source: Weekly Eleven). Number of political prisoners included not known, although rumours that around 30 from Insein have so far been released.

12.02pm: More names coming in. Hnin Pwint Wei, from the All Burma Students’ Federation Union (ABSFU), jailed for burying corpses of Cyclone Nargis victims in 2008, released from  Moulmein prison.

Kyaw Khin, who won a seat in the 1990 elections and was subsequently jailed in Taunggyi, also released. National League for Democracy (NLD) members Tin Tin Cho and Ohn Nyaw released from Lashio, as is monk U Sheineitta.

11.50am: Lawyer for jailed DVB journalists Maung Maung Zeya and Sithu Zeya says they are not on the prisoner release list.

11.30am: Comedian Zarganar has been released and will fly from Myitkyina prison to Rangoon shortly, his family said. Domestic news journal Weekly Eleven claims to have secured an interview with him.

Also said to have been released is Maj-Gen Hso Ten, of the Shan State Army (North), who was sentenced on charges of sedition in 2005 to 106 years. He has been held in Sittwe, but was reportedly released today.

Reuters claim prominent monk Ashin Gambira has been released, although our sources at Kale prison say he is not on the release list.

Rumours that 46 people have been freed from Mandalay prison.

 

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