BURMA: PRESIDENT THEIN
SEIN FAILS TO KEEP HIS PROMISE TO RELEASE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS
Friday, 10 January 2014
Bangkok, Paris - January 10,
2014. The international community should hold the Burmese government
accountable for failing to fulfill its promise to release all
political prisoners by December 31, 2013, said FIDH and its
member organization the Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma)
On July 15, 2013, President
Thein Sein pledged to release all political prisoners “by
the end of the year.” Following his announcement, Thein
Sein released about 240 dissidents in five separate amnesties.
However, approximately 40 political prisoners remained behind
bars at the start of 2014.
community must stop being seduced by the Burmese government’s
empty promises. Almost three years after Thein Sein became President,
dozens of political prisoners remain behind bars. Those who
are released face the constant risk of being re-arrested under
Burma’s oppressive laws,” said ALTSEAN-Burma
Coordinator and FIDH Secretary-General Debbie Stothard. “Instead
of making sweetheart deals in favor of trade and investment,
the international community must push for the immediate and
unconditional release of all political prisoners and for genuine
legislative reform in Burma ,” Ms. Stothard urged.
Among the political prisoners
who remain incarcerated are prominent human rights defenders,
ethnic minority civilians, and INGO Burmese relief workers.
Prominent Kachin land rights activist Ms. Bawk Ja, who was arrested
on July 19, 2013, on charges of negligent homicide in a politically
motivated case, remains detained in Myitkyina, Kachin State.
Rohingya human rights defenders Mr. Tun Aung and Mr. Kyaw Hla
Aung, were arrested for their activities in support of Rohingya
in June 2012 and July 2013, respectively. Both remain incarcerated
in Sittwe prison, Arakan State. Activist Aye Thein, who was
freed in a presidential amnesty on December 11, 2013, was re-arrested
on the same day. He faces sedition charges in connection with
a protest against the relocation of a market in Mandalay in
August 2012. He remains imprisoned in Mandalay. Four Kachin
IDPs, Messrs. Brang Yung, Lahpai Gam, Zaw Bauk, and La Ring,
who were arrested in June 2012 on false charges of having ties
to the ethnic armed group Kachin Independence Army (KIA), remain
imprisoned in Myitkyina jail, Kachin State. A court in Myitkyina
sentenced the four to two years in prison each under the Unlawful
Association Act on December 15, 2013. Three INGO workers, who
were arrested in connection with the unrest in Arakan State
in June-July 2012, remain detained in Buthidaung prison, Arakan
Sein could have freed all political prisoners a long time ago.
Instead, he chose to release thousands of common criminals,”
Ms. Stothard said. “On January 2, 2014, over 13,000
common criminals were released as a result of Thein Sein’s
Independence Day pardon. This is ten times the number of political
prisoners released in the last three years,” she
make the repeal of Burma’s draconian laws on freedom of
expression and association its number one priority and the government
must support such legislative reform,” said FIDH
President Karim Lahidji.
Since first convening in January
2011, Burma’s Parliament has repealed only one law, Law
5/96,  out of the 11 oppressive laws that the UN identified
as not in line with international standards.
 Law 5/96 was frequently
used by the military junta to jail critics of the National Convention,
the junta-sponsored constitution-drafting process. However,
the law became void even before being repealed by Parliament
in January 2013 because of the conclusion of the National Convention
in September 2007 and the adoption of the constitution in May