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.
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.
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.”
There are still hundreds of political prisoners in jail, kept in inhumane conditions. For example, in March 2013, Myint Soe was arrested and sentenced to 7 and half years in prison. Myint Soe is a labour activist from Burma who campaigns for workers’ rights and helps workers to set up trade unions. He is also a former political prisoner who has spent a total of 15 years in prison on three separate occasions.
Before he was arrested in March, Myint Soe and his colleagues helped farmers in southern Burma to reoccupy their land and build temporary houses. Several years ago the government had confiscated their land. Now the area is controlled by a state-owned paper factory run by a crony company called Shwe Than Lwin.
Myint Soe was sued and falsely accused by the company that he cut eucalyptus trees in the area in order to build houses. Although Myint Soe had witnesses who provided statements that he did not cut any trees, he was arrested. He was charged under The Public Property Protection Act (1947) with the accusation of cutting the trees down, and was sentenced to 7 and half years in Thaton prison, Mon State.
Therefore, I urge you to pressure the military-backed government to immediately and unconditionally release Myint Soe and all the remaining political prisoners in Burma, and to establish a permanent review mechanism to investigate cases of political activists who are wrongfully jailed.
Activists and journalists continue to be arrested in Burma and political prisoners remain in jail.
Take action to free political prisoners.