Amnesty granted to at least 23 political prisoners

Feb 23, 2009 (DVB), At least 23 political prisoners are now confirmed to be among the 6316 prisoners released in the Burmese military regime's latest amnesty, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners and other reports.

Among those released yesterday were Tin Htay and Than Htun from Nyaung Don, who were serving two and four and a half years respectively in Kalay prison in Sagaing division for possession of an illegal VCD of Than Shwe's daughter's wedding.

Zaw Naing Htway (also known as Kenneth), the brother of 88 Generation Students leader Marki, was also freed from the four-mile prison labour camp in Taung-ngu.

According to other sources, four Karen villagers from Shwe Kyin-Kyauk Kyi, who had been imprisoned for unlawful association, were released from the same camp.

Nine former officials from Khin Nyunt's Military Intelligence were also released from Kathar prison, according to people who went to the prison yesterday to see if Aung San Suu Kyi's personal assistant Win Htein would be among those released.

Dr Zaw Myint Maung, a people’s parliament representative from Amarapura in Mandalay division, was released from Kachin state’s Myitkyina prison on Saturday after serving 18 years in prison with four years left of his sentence.

His wife said Pe Sein, a member of Moe Nyin National League for Democracy organising wing, Tint Swe from Pu-tao and Naung Naung, Aung San Suu Kyi’s cameraman who was arrested after her trip to Kachin state, were also released from Myitkyina.

She said her husband was so excited to have been released after spending nearly 19 years in prison that he didn’t know what to say when she talked to him on phone.

"He was speechless when I talked to him on phone , he could only answer my questions but wouldn’t say anything else," she said.

His daughter, who was only one year old at the time of his sentencing, said she was so happy to see him now as she never had spent time together with him before.

Other political prisoners among those released were San Chaung NLD chair Thet Wai, Kamaryut All Burma Federation of Student Unions member Tun Tun and Arakan Liberation Party member Khaing Ba Myint.

Five monks from San Chaung's Nine-Storey Pagoda monastery who were arrested in 2003 for breaking curfew were also freed.

NLD spokesperson Nyan Win said the party had not expected many political prisoners to be released.

"We didn’t actually expect to see a lot of political prisoners on the list of those who were granted amnesty by the government," Nyan Win said.

"In the government’s report about the release of the prisoners in newspapers, they used the term ‘civilian prisoners’, but the issue we are having with the 2010 elections is about the political prisoners," he said.

"The government said the amnesty was granted to the inmates as a gesture of goodwill , but we see that it’s merely a front as there are only a few political prisoners included."

The Burmese military regime announced the release of 6313 prisoners on Friday, the day after United Nations special rapporteur on human rights Tomas Ojea Quintana concluded his six-day visit to the country.

Quintana has called for the progressive release of political prisoners prior to the planned 2010 elections as one of four human rights proposals put forward to the regime.

Nineteen political prisoners were among the 6313 granted amnesty, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Despite the latest prisoner releases, more than 2000 political detainees continue to be held, and political activists are regularly being detained, sentenced and transferred to remote prisons.

The mother of student activist De Nyein Linn, who is serving a 15-year jail term in Insein prison, said she had gone to the prison to see her son on Saturday and found that he had been transferred to Khandee prison in Sagagin division.

"I learnt my son was going to be transferred to another prison when I visited him on Thursday," De Nyein Linn's mother said.

"My son told me he knew about that too but he wasn’t sure when or where they were going to send him."

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw, Yee May Aung and Naw Say Phaw

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