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The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-B) said on Thursday that only one of the 3,073 detainees released on 7 October in a presidential amnesty was on their list of political prisoners.
Bo Kyi, a former political prisoner himself and current joint-secretary of AAPP-B, told DVB that an ethnic Kachin man named Mar La—who was imprisoned under the Unlawful Association Act for his alleged association with the Kachin Independence Army—was the only political prisoner released in the general amnesty order by President Thein Sein.
Rights organizations have different criteria for classifying individuals as “political prisoners” or “prisoners of conscience”. This week’s statement issued by Amnesty International (AI), for example, indicated that another political prisoner was also released on Tuesday.
The London-based watchdog said that it recognised the release of a Rohingya Muslim human rights defender, Kyaw Hla Aung, as a prisoner of conscience because the charges against him were politically motivated.
“On 26 September 2014, a court in Sittwe found him [Kyaw Hla Aung] guilty of ‘rioting’ and sentenced him to 18 months in prison,” AI said, adding that upon his release this week the Rohingya activist was forced to sign a statement whereby he agreed “not to take part in any other unlawful activities or else he would be imprisoned again”.
The presidential amnesty on 7 October coincided with the full moon day marking the end of this year’s Buddhist lent, and was announced on the Ministry of Information’s website. Information Minister Ye Htut posted on his Facebook page that, “The prisoners have been released on humanitarian grounds and for the sake of national reconciliation, the rule of law, and ethnic unity.”