Campaign to release Burmese political prisoners

24 Sep

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) [AAAP], 127 political prisoners in Burma have been released from imprisonment.

Amongst those released included journalists Eint Khaing Oo and Kyaw Kyaw Thant who were involved in helping Cyclone Nargis survivors and U Peter and Daw Nu Nu Swe, jailed for refusing to allow security forces to search their home for their son Sithu Maung.

This leaves 2,211 political detainees languishing in Burmese jails:

CATEGORY

NUMBER

Monks 237
Members of Parliament 16
Students 286
Women 191
NLD members 479
Members of the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
network
43
Ethnic nationalities 197
Cyclone Nargis volunteers 21
Teachers 26
Media Activists 51
Lawyers 12
In Poor Health 137

Despite the release of 7, 114 prisoners on humanitarian grounds, political prisoners constitute a comparatively small number of the group. It is therefore not ill-presumed to conclude with AAAP that this latest move is a ‘cynical ploy to defuse international pressure’.

Human Rights Watch has launched a ‘2100 by 2010: free burma’s political prisoners’ campaign to draw attention to this human rights issue. According to its prisoner fact sheet, the junta is holding these activists in 43 prisons and more than 50 labor camps. Most of them were charged under the country’s penal code banning freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and the right to organise.

The New-York based human rights organisation has also released two new reports on Burma. ‘The Resistance of the Monks‘ compiles the narratives of Buddhist monks who were being incarcerated and tortured due to their involvement in the 2007 Saffron uprising. According to the report, the 2007 repression was ‘the worst ever assault on the Sangha [Buddhist monk community], worse than anything that happened to the Sangha during the British colonial period, the 1962-1988 military-led avowedly socialist regime, or crackdowns on political activities in 1988, 1990, 1996, and 2003’.

‘Burma’s Forgotten Prisoners’ is profiles some of the exemplary activists who are still locked up in prisons. The report named individuals such as Zargana, U Gambira, Su Su Nway and Min Ko Naing. all of whom ‘represent diverse strands of defiance to military rule and remain in prison today’.

HRW has come up with a list of actions one can do to focus on this matter. They are not limited to:

  • Write to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, asking him to pressure Burma’s military government on the release of all Burmese political prisoners.
  • Write opinion pieces for your local newspaper on the plight of political prisoners in Burma and call up radio stations raising the plight of individual prisoners like Zargana, Su Su Nway, U Gambira and Min Ko Naing.
  • Disseminate information and support human rights in Burma through social networking and online activism via social media such as AVAAZ, Twitter, and Facebook.
  • Publicize the plight of people jailed for their peaceful activities by speaking out at community events on the absence of freedom of expression in Burma.
  • Distribute information materials such as those published by Human Rights Watch.
  • Help the families of political prisoners by donating to organizations that support them, such as the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma (AAPPB). Such organizations keep thousands of people fed, housed, and at school. You can also help fund research on the plight of Burma’s prisoners by donating to Human Rights Watch.

You can also sign an online petition through HRW.

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