Myanmar prisoner release fails to mollify junta’s critics
YANGON: The Myanmar junta’s announcement of a major release of political prisoners has failed to appease its critics, with the United States and rights group Amnesty International labelling the move inadequate.
The prisoners began making their way home from jails around the country on Thursday, in the largest release since the regime began a UN-brokered dialogue with the democratic opposition two years ago.
But Amnesty said in a statement that most of the dissidents, among an estimated 1,200-1,300 behind bars in the country, had already served long jail terms for minor crimes. “We welcome these releases but stress that they are long overdue, and must be followed by the unconditional release of other prisoners of conscience who have been suffering in Myanmar’s prisons for too long,” it said. “Among those already released are individuals who have served six or more years for acts which not be considered crimes under international law, such as talking to foreign journalists about torture of political prisoners.”
Amnesty also said the junta must ensure that the dissidents, including 57 members of the opposition National League for Democracy, would not be forced to serve the rest of their terms if they were arrested again.
“The (government) must ensure that these releases are unconditional, and that prisoners are not subjected to harassment after their release,” it said.
Stinging criticism also came from the United States, with the State Department’s senior Asia policymaker James Kelly saying the government’s move was “welcome, but highly incomplete and inadequate”.
“Burma’s population continues to be denied basic human and political rights across the board,” he said Thursday, using the country’s former name which was ditched by the military government.. Kelly hit out at the junta’s handling of claims this year by two Thailand-based groups that its troops were guilty of mass-rape of women in Shan province where an insurgency has raged for decades.—AFP