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President Thein Sein promised amnesty to all political prisoners before the end of 2013, but three days into the new year, only a handful have actually been released.
Khin Cho Myint from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma shares her view on the presidential pardon.
“They said they would release all the political prisoners, but they haven’t”, she said. “But we would still say it’s good to release a few – better than to release none”.
“According to our statistics, about 100 political activists still await trial. But they have been charged with other allegations, such as disturbing government servants’ duties, land seizures and defamation”.
Former political prisoner Ko Tin Aye is dissatisfied with the result of the amnesty.
“The government say they are transforming Burma from a dictatorship into a democratic country at the same time as they’re arresting the people who are helping transform the country”, he said. “It’s all a contradiction! Every political prisoner should be released”.
“If they continue arresting these people and throwing them in prison, the policy of offering amnesty will be totally undermined. It is not enough to simply release these activists – they must be allowed to continue participating in the political process. And no more arrests of this kind should happen in the future”.
However, former prisoner Kyaw Soe Win sees a more positive outcome on the horizon.
“As I was a political prisoner myself, I am heartily delighted with the release of our fellow political prisoners. But we will have to make sure all the political prisoners are released”.
“The point is that the government has not officially defined the term ‘political prisoner’. That’s the thing. I think we have different perceptions of who is and who is not a political detainee”.