Burma Campaign UK today expressed disappointment at Aung San Suu Kyi’s deliberate decision to keep almost 200 political prisoners in jail. Almost 400 more activists face trial and possible detention at a future date.
While it is a wonderful news that 18 released political prisoners are being reunited with their families again, given that 6 of the political prisoners released did not fall within the criteria for general prisoner releases, it is now clear that a decision was made to keep most political prisoners in jail.
Burma’s jails are overcrowded and a dangerous place to be during the Covid-19 pandemic. Political prisoners should not be in jail in the first place, and now face even more danger because of the pandemic.
It has been four years since the NLD-led government came to power, but the political prisoner issue remains one of the main problems in the country. Almost all the repressive laws the military dictatorship used to jail activists remain in place. State media controlled by the NLD government has even carried propaganda features defending and promoting the usefulness of repressive laws, and new repressive laws have been proposed.
Under Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, many human rights defenders, journalists and civilians are being arbitrarily arrested for peacefully protesting or criticising the government on social media. Aung San Suu Kyi, as de facto leader of the NLD-led government, has the power to order the release of all political prisoners through a Presidential pardon. Her majority in Parliament gives her the power to repeal all repressive laws. The deliberate decision to keep almost 200 political prisoners in jail is yet more evidence of how Aung San Suu Kyi has no respect for human rights.
“Aung San Suu Kyi should be facing significant international pressure for her decision to keep political prisoners in jail and keep and use repressive laws,” said Mark Farmaner, Director at Burma Campaign UK. “It is unacceptable that after almost a full term of the NLD government, political prisoners remain in jail. The international community stood up for political prisoners when it was the military jailing them, but do nothing for them now it is Aung San Suu Kyi keeping them in jail.”
On Tuesday 21st April people around the world will be supporting Blue Shirt Day for political prisoners in Burma. Tuesday 21st April is the sixth anniversary of the death of U Win Tin, a former political prisoner who famously continued to wear his blue prison shirt after his release in support of those political prisoners still in Burma’s jails. People are being asked to wear blue and post pictures on social media to raise awareness of political prisoners still in Burma’s jails.