Burma Campaign UK today strongly urged Hugo Swire MP, British Foreign Office Minister with responsibility for Burma, to pressure the military-backed government in Burma to repeal all repressive laws and release all remaining political prisoners immediately.
Regardless of the changes in Burma, almost all the repressive laws which enabled the jailing of political prisoners still remain in place. The unconditional release of all political prisoners is an essential step towards genuine democracy and freedom in Burma.
As part of the No Political Prisoner Left Behind campaign, Burma Campaign UK is highlighting a case of a political prisoner every month to draw attention to the hundreds of political prisoners still in jail. The political prisoner for this month is Aung Soe.
Aung Soe is an activist and a member of the Rangoon Civil Assistance Network that promotes civil rights in the country. He was arrested for his part organising protests with farmers to plough the land which had been confiscated by the Burmese government for the Letpadaung copper mine project.
The Letpadaung project is a joint venture between China’s Wan Bao Company and the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. The project resulted in land confiscations and environmental degradation. Protests started in June 2012 by a group of farmers who demanded compensation for confiscated land and suspension of the activities of this copper mine located in Monywa – central Burma.
Aung Soe was badly beaten when he was arrested in April 2013. He has been charged with 8 different counts, including under Article 144 and section 505(b) of the penal code for committing or inducing others to commit an offense against the State or against the public tranquility.
His trial was closed without any lawyer allowed to defend his case. He was sentenced to one and a half years in prison for 3 different charges and the trial will continue for the remaining 5 charges. He is serving his prison sentences in Shwe Bo prison in central Burma, which is more than 480 miles away from his family in Rangoon.
“Unless all the repressive laws are repealed, people in Burma will continue to live in fear of arrest, torture and harassment by the military-backed government,” said Wai Hnin, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. “Hugo Swire and the international community should not abondon political prisoners like Aung Soe. The immediate unconditional release of all political prisoners is a very important step towards genuine democracy and national reconciliation in the country.”