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Activists urge wider support for prisoner release

Ten activist groups in Burma have issued a joint statement urging citizens to get behind a campaign for the release of political prisoners, which many believe is a prerequisite for democratic reform.

Among the groups are the All Burma Monks’ Association, the 88 Generation Students group, and the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU). They claim that despite the election of a new government, little has changed across the political and humanitarian spectrum since March.

“Finding a solution for political problems is important and necessary to develop a peaceful nation and in order to do so, political prisoners who are detained because their points of view differ [from the government] should be released,” said Ashin Dhamma Siri, spokesperson of the ABMA.

“For the first step, we will express our wishes by holding prayers at influential pagodas on Uposatha [Buddhist day of observance] days – and if our demands are not met, we will launch more campaigns.”

An amnesty for the nearly 2,100 political prisoners in Burma should act as a prelude for dialogue between the opposition, the government and armed ethnic groups, he said. Four of Burma’s most prominent insurgent groups are currently involved in heavy fighting in the country’s border regions.

The issue of political prisoners remains an albatross around the neck of the Burmese government, whose amnesty last month was criticised after it commuted the sentences of only 55 jailed activists and politicians.

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