I am writing to you today regarding political prisoners in Burma. Despite the release of high profile political prisoners, hundreds of political prisoners remain in jail, and more activists are being arrested. In fact, almost all the repressive laws, which put political prisoners in jail, still remain in place.
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.
For example, a Kachin farmer, Lahpai Gam, was arrested in June 2012 and he is currently serving a 20 year prison sentence in Myintkyina prison. He was arrested under suspicion of being a soldier from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and carrying out bombing operations near Myitkyina. He was charged under Article 17/1 of the Unlawful Association Act. After he was arrested, he was brutally tortured during interrogation; he was repeatedly kicked, beaten, forced to drink water mixed with fuel, and he was forced to have sexual intercourse with one other male prisoner.
He was repeatedly tortured and forced to make false confession about his connection with the KIA and different bombings in the area. He was also accused of leaving the refugee camp several times to attend military training sessions with the KIA. At his trial, Lahpai Gam said to the judge that he had no other choice but to confess so that the torture would stop.
After more than a year in detention, he was sentenced to 2 years prison sentence in November 2013, and an additional 5 years were added to his sentence on 19th December 2013. An additional 14 years were added again to his sentence on 5th June 2014, and now he is serving a 21 year prison sentence in Myintkyina Prison.
On 30th January 2014, the United Nations Working Group On Arbitrary Detention issued a ruling that the Burmese government’s detention of Kachin farmer Laphai Gam is arbitrary, and demanded his immediate release. The official opinion of the UN Working group is that the detention of Laphai Gam is in contravention of Articles 13, 18, 19 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Burma Tomas Ojea Quintana said in his last visit to the country that, “Despite the fact that the Government has released a large number of prisoners of conscience, there still remains a significant number. I continue to be concerned about the practice of torture happening in places of detention in Myanmar.”
Therefore, I urge you to pressure the military-backed government to immediately and unconditionally release Lahpai Gam and all the remaining political prisoners in Burma, and to repeal all the repressive laws that put political activists in jail.
Activists and journalists continue to be arrested in Burma and political prisoners remain in jail.
Take action to free political prisoners.