Visitors told of Burma prisoner amnesty

Aug 5, 2009 (DVB), A list of political prisoners to be released in an amnesty has already been drawn up by the Burmese government, according to family members visiting political prisoners last week.

The Burmese ambassador to the United Nations, Than Swe, said in July that the government would be releasing prisoners "with a view to enabling them to participate in the 2010 general elections".

The pledge was greeted with widespread skepticism, with some observers claiming it was being done to avoid UN Security Council action.

But the wife of National League for Democracy (NLD) member, Ko Zaw Zaw Aung, who is in Tharawaddy prison, said that authorities there have already drawn up a list of releases.

"According to the sources, the list of people who will be released from prison had already been posted inside the prison," she said. "They said 52 people will be released."

Around 100 political prisoners still remain inside the prison, according to Ko Zaw Zaw Aung, who was arrested whilst demonstrating in front of the NLD headquarters in August 2007 against the hike in fuel and commodity prices which triggered the September 2007 monk-led protests.

Similarly, a list of people has reportedly been drawn up in Kale prison, Sagaing division, according to the sister of activist Su Su Nway, who heard the news when she visited the prison.

"[Su Su Nway] said she may be one of the political prisoners released; she was perhaps informed by someone inside there," said Ma Htay Htay Kyi, adding that her sister had told her she did not have permission to talk about it.

The amnesty pledge followed a visit to Burma in early July by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, intended in part to pressure for the release of political prisoners.

Than Swe told the Security Council that the Burmese government would "implement all appropriate recommendations that [the] Secretary General had proposed".

The Burmese government has previously granted an amnesty to prisoners following a visit by UN human rights rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana. Over 6,000 prisoners were released but only around 30 had been charged on political grounds.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP), over 2,160 prisoners remain languishing in Burma's notorious prisons, 472 of which are members of the National League for Democracy party.

Reporting by Nang Kham Kaew

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