The government-backed political prisoner scrutiny committee has been asked to push for the release of former prime minister and spy chief Khin Nyunt’s son-in-law during the next presidential amnesty.
Following the purges of the government’s military intelligence branch in 2004, Tin Htut was sentenced to 146 years in prison. The purges, which also led to the arrest of Khin Nyunt, have largely been described as the result of a power struggle, between the prime minister and junta strongman Than Shwe.
According to Ye Aung of the Former Political Prisoners Organisation, Tin Htut’s father Paw Khin Than sent a letter to the committee through the President’s Office asking the group to press for his son’s release.
Since taking power in 2011, Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government has released more than 22,000 detainees in 10 general amnesties. Of these, 908 people have been identified as political prisoners by the Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-B).
In January 2012, Khin Nyunt along with his sons were released during a presidential amnesty, while the former majority shareholder of the Myanmar Times and son of a military intelligence officer, Sonny Swe, who was imprisoned in 2005 as part of the purges, was released from prison in late April this year.
Although the series of amnesties has brought Thein Sein international praise, rights groups have criticised the government for continually using political prisoners as pawns to garner goodwill with western governments.
While the government-backed political prisoner scrutiny committee was created in February to vet the remaining political prisoners of conscious in the country, committee members have complained the process lacks transparency and genuine consultation.
During the most recent amnesty on 17 May, committee members said prisoner release lists were compiled in secret by the Prison Department and the President’s Office and then passed onto the committee to be endorsed.
“U Aung Thein and U Soe Thane are eager to credit prisoner releases to the work of the verification committee, when in fact the releases are not supported by all members and not all members are included in any meaningful way in the release process,” said the AAPP-B’s Aung Myo Thein during an interview with DVB after the amnesty.
More than 180 political prisoners are still incarcerated in Burma, which does not include Tin Htut, according to a list compiled by AAPP-B.
According to the scrutiny committee, political prisoners are defined 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.”