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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 104

Burma: ‘AAPP-B’ wishes Presidential amnesty for all political prisoners

By - Zin Linn

Burma’s prisoners of conscience watchdog group welcomes President Thein Sein’s clear message for the “release of prisoners with a view of fostering national reconciliation” during the World Economic Forum, the three-day roundtable (5-7 June) in Naypyidaw, the country's new political capital.

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) says in its statement that, however, the President’s words have not turned into into real and tangible action for freeing all political prisoners as well as guaranteeing further arrests by reason of their political beliefs or measures.

AAPP (B) also says that they acknowledge the President for his words since his words are influential and essential for change. But, it mentions that words alone cannot help the release of hundreds of political prisoners who are still behind bars. In addition, thousands who have been conditionally released under Article 401 (1) must enjoy their freedom without restraints, the association says in their press statement dated 7June, 2013.

AAPP (B) urges President Thein Sein to use his presidential power to completely wipe down conditions binding to the former political prisoners’ free will and to make wider authorization of the ‘Committee to Scrutinize Remaining Political Prisoners’. In doing so, President Thein Sein’s wish of no more political prisoners may become practicality, the group said.

The ‘Committee to Scrutinize Remaining Political Prisoners’ has to define the meaning of prisoners of conscience and coordinate for a set of framework for releasing and scrutinize the remaining political prisoners and report the findings to the President. Taik Naing (General-Secretary) and Bo Kyi (Joint-Secretary) of Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) based in Thailand have visited Yangon since 5 January so as to cooperate with other civil based organizations and political parties supporting release of the remaining political prisoners as well as their rehabilitation, according to media reports.

In its latest statement, AAPP (B) urges the President to broaden the mandate of the ‘Committee to Scrutinize Remaining Political Prisoners’ so as to include detainees and individuals currently under charges. Thus, the Government of Burma is capable of preventing the emergence of a new batch of political prisoners in the country. To implement the task, all official members attached to the Committee need equal standing in the decision making process in a transparent way.

In addition, the watchdog association urges to revoke retrospectively conditions forced by Article 401 (1) for all former political prisoners released under this proviso through a presidential decree.

Before the first trip to Yangon, Bo Kyi explained about AAPP's purpose concerning freedom of the prisoners of conscience and to do away with repressive laws still in force. The Association would go together with the 88 Student Generation group to reach its objective, Bo Kyi added. Although the President Thein Sein government released several political prisoners, he said, there are as many as 200 left behind bars.

According to AAPP, "Torture in Burma's interrogation centers and prisons is brutal and systematic. Political prisoners are subject to extreme physical assaults resulting in internal bleeding and unconsciousness.

In Burma, torture is not limited to physical assaults, but extends to the authorities maintenance of general prison conditions and the ineptness of the prison health care system. Prison authorities routinely and deliberately aggravate prison conditions and deny medical care to political prisoners, causing a level of suffering that amounts to torture." (Eight seconds of silence, The Death of Democracy Activists behind Bars, AAPP, May 2006.)

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) is a human rights organization based in Mae Sot, Thailand that works for the release of all political prisoners and for the improvement of prison conditions inside Burma. Set up in 2000, AAPP is entirely run by former political prisoners.

It carries out a range of activities on behalf of Burma's political prisoners. AAPP is widely recognized as a reliable and credible source of information on political prisoner issues in Burma, by the United Nations, governments, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and respected media outlets around the world.

If President Thein Sein sincerely work for real change, he must take responsibility to remove inappropriate conditions under Article 401(1) that put a ceiling on former political prisoners through a presidential amnesty decree, AAPP (B) states in its statement.

- Asian Tribune -

Burma President Thein Sein
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