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Advocacy groups etch out ‘political prisoner’ definition

Political parties and advocacy organisations hammered out a definition for political prisoners during a workshop in Rangoon on Thursday.

According to Ye Aung of Former Political Prisoners Organisation, participants defined a political prisoner as: “any individual who is detained or being legally punished for participating in various forms of political activity due to a belief that it would serve the interest of the country and its people or that the people are suffering, and any individual persecuted by a government or a government authority with a political motive.”

The activist added that the term also refers to individuals incarcerated for having alleged connections with non-state armed groups.

“Based on the definition adopted in the conference, the committee will be verifying the remaining political prisoners during a meeting on Saturday. We will also try to approach parliamentarians and parties to adopt the definition into legislation,” said Ye Aung.

The conference was organised by the government-backed Committee to Verify Remaining Political Prisoners.

On 6 February, President Thein Sein announced the formation of the committee, which includes political parties and civil society groups such as the Former Political Prisoners Organisation, the 88 Generation Students and the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-B).

The committee’s mandate is to legally define what constitutes a political prisoner. The critieria  will then be used to evaluate incarcerated individuals within Burma’s prison system.

According to AAPP-B, there are still 222 political prisoners in Burma.

However, this figure does not take into consideration individuals who were incarcerated in Kachin state in the past year for violating the draconian Unlawful Association Act or residents who were arbitrarily arrested in Arakan state during the two episodes of communal violence last year.


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