I am writing to you today regarding political prisoners in Burma. Despite the release of high profile political prisoners, hundreds of political prisoners could still remain in jail, and more activists are being arrested. The international community must not forget those political prisoners still left behind in Burma’s jails.
Some of those recently released have been arrested and released on several occasions to try to avoid international pressure. In the recent high profile releases, activists actually had sentences suspended, they were not pardoned. If they are arrested again, they will serve the new prison terms, and the old prison term they didn’t finish serving will be added to it. The laws that put them in prison still remain in place.
The current political prisoner scrutiny committee established by President Thein Sein has not brought an end to the problem of political prisoners in Burma. The promise by President Thein Sein to release all political prisoners by the end of 2013 was not met.
There are still political prisoners in jail, kept in inhumane conditions. For example, Dr Tun Aung was arrested and jailed unlawfully by the military-backed government in Burma in 2012. Tun Aung is a 65-year-old medical doctor who is also a chairman of the Islamic Religious Affairs Council in Burma. He was arrested and accused of fuelling the communal riots in his hometown, Maungdaw, Rakhine State. He was arrested in June 2012 and charged under six different counts, including the Myanmar Wireless Telegraphs Act and Section 24 (1) of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison but under a presidential amnesty, his sentence was reduced to one year in prison.
He is suffering from a pituitary tumor and needs regular medication but he has been denied medical treatment. His family members are gravely concerned about his health but they are not allowed to visit him in prison. On 6th February 2014, he was transferred to Insein Prison in Rangoon.
There should be a permanent and genuinely independent review mechanism with the involvement of international experts, to investigate cases where people were jailed unjustly and secure their immediate unconditional release.
In addition, former political prisoners continue to suffer after their release and the Burmese government has not apologised or accepted that these people should not have been in jail in the first place. Compensation and rehabilitation programs should be provided for former political prisoners after their release. Criminal records, which all former political prisoners have, should be removed and they should be allowed to continue their studies and their previous careers without restrictions.
Therefore, I urge you to pressure the military-backed government for the immediate release of all remaining political prisoners including Tun Aung, and to establish a permanent independent review mechanism to solve the issue of political prisoners once and for all.
Activists and journalists continue to be arrested in Burma and political prisoners remain in jail.
Take action to free political prisoners.