05/31/2016, 17.44
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Burmese political exiles may return home, but “more reforms” are needed

The new NLD-led government will allow activists who fled the military dictatorship to return home within 100 days. For National Youth Congress member Bosco Saw Aung Thu Ya, full democracy requires that “prisoners, activists and students” be released, and that young people take part in national reconciliation. “Unfortunately, there are still restrictions on young people’s participation” in politics.

Naypyidaw (AsiaNews) – The Myanmar government will allow exiled opposition activists who are still on an official ‘no-entry’ blacklist to return to the Southeast Asian country within 100 days, said deputy foreign affairs minister Kyaw Tin on Thursday. Those who committed crimes in Myanmar are excluded.

This "is a sign of good will on the part of the new government, and of its desire to continue on the path of democracy. However, for this to happen, political prisoners and more reforms to the Constitution must occur," said Bosco Saw Aung Thu Ya, a Catholic activist and member of Myanmar’s National Youth Congress.

Thousands of students, former political prisoners and war refugees fled abroad after the pro-democracy protests of 1988. The violent response of the military junta led to an isolationist policy. Most exiles are in the United States, Europe, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore and Japan.

Kyaw Tin also said that the Foreign Ministry is planning to change the rules to allow people who lost their Myanmar citizenship to regain it.

In 2012, former President Thein Sein had already called on members of the Myanmar diaspora, who left the country "for various reasons" to return to Myanmar. This was met with widespread refusal because of the lack of "concrete improvements" in the workplace, health care, and education.

For Bosco Saw Aung Thu Ya, who is a former leader of the National Catholic Youth, real democratic progress requires reforms to some articles of the Constitution “like Article 18 and Article 505 (b)”. The latter, which regulates public gatherings, has been used by the pro-military government to punish human rights advocates, political activists and protesters.

In addition to political exiles, "we should protect freedom of expression and political activists. Unfortunately, there are still restrictions on young people’s participation to the peace process,” the Catholic activist said. “For this reason, I hope the government can achieve national reconciliation, which cannot be completed without the contribution of young people, given that some conflicts pass on from one generation to the next."

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a major dissident group, 121 political prisoners have been convicted and 414 are on trial.

Last April, Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), which won the last election, announced that the new government would release as soon as possible "prisoners, activists and students who are serving sentences in prison".

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