Today Burma Campaign UK welcomed the news that 69 political prisoners have been released but expressed concerns that, once again, the release of political prisoners is cynically timed with the visits of high profile international delegations.
Activists Aung Soe and Naw Ohn Hla were among the released prisoners, and their cases were highlighted in our No Political Prisoner Left Behind campaign in March and August 2013.
Political prisoner releases are used by President Thein Sein as a PR tool to persuade the international community that Burma is reforming. The release of political prisoners coincides with a high-level delegation from the EU and a visit by former US President Bill Clinton. The previous dictatorship, of which President Thein Sein was one of the most senior members, was notorious for using the strategic release of political prisoners to try to alleviate international pressure. Thein Sein has continued this policy.
While hundreds of political prisoners have been released since Thein Sein became President, more activists are being arrested for speaking out. In Kachin State and in Rakhine State, hundreds more remain in jail or are awaiting trials. Almost all the repressive laws which are used to jail political prisoners remain in place.
“I am thrilled to hear that some political prisoners were released today but if Thein Sein is serious about reforms, why does he continue to arrest peaceful activists?” said Wai Hnin, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. “All political prisoners must be released immediately and unconditionally, but just releasing political prisoners is not enough. All repressive laws should be repealed to ensure that these activists are not rearrested.”