More than 100 former political prisoners and their families met in Sandoway [Thandwe] in Arakan State for the first time on Wednesday morning.
The prisoners of conscience from Sandoway, Taunggup and Gwa townships were hosted at the offices of the National League for Democracy (NLD).
Soe Lin, a local NLD official, said that the aim of the event was to find ways to support the political prisoners and their families who endure livelihood struggles.
“There have been political prisoners in Burma since the time of the BSPP [Burma Socialist Programme Party], throughout the 1988 uprising and the previous military dictatorship,” he said. “We believe that there should be a historical record of their ordeals, and that they are unfairly imprisoned.”
He told DVB that the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma (AAPP-B) also attended the event “to learn more about their problems and how to provide the necessary assistance.”
He said ex-political prisoners not only suffer from physical and mental trauma, but that their loved ones also experience economic hardships, as well as difficulties in accessing education and healthcare services. He added that the NLD has only able to provide a stipend of 5,000 kyat (US$5) per month to each family.
Chit Ko Lin, one of the leaders of the AAPP-B team, said they were collecting necessary information in order to help the former and current political prisoners.
“We are looking to provide help for political prisoners who are still in prison and those who have been released, but are still suffering from physical and mental trauma in Arakan State, as well as providing assistance for their families. We are here to meet with them to learn more about their situation,” he said.
He said the AAPP-B has been active in 13 townships across Burma where they have met with former political prisoners and their families and provided assistance since 2013.
He said that after meeting with ex-political prisoners in southern Arakan State, his team will head to the north of the region to meet with further individuals and their families.
According to the AAPP-B, there are currently 162 political prisoners behind bars, while 203 individuals are currently on trial accused of various activism charges.