01/13/2012, 00.00
MYANMAR

High profile Burmese political prisoners freed

The measure desired by the President of Myanmar about 651 prisoners, among them - but the exact number is still unknown - prisoners of conscience. These would include monks, student leaders and former prime minister and intelligence chief Khin Nyunt. Aung San Suu Kyi says it is a "positive signal". One step closer to the possibile removal of Western sanctions.
Yangon (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In an act of clemency President Thein Sein has decided to free several prominent Burmese dissidents after years of detention. The measure in force today is just the latest in a series of amnesties decided by the new "civilian" government, which aims to return fully into the international community, to obtain the cancellation of the sanctions of the Western bloc - the United States and European Union - and take over the presidency of ASEAN, the association that brings together 10 nations of South-East Asia, for 2014. According to preliminary reports, still fragmentary and confused, among the freed prisoners - 651 in total – are one of the leaders of 88 Generation Students Group, Min Ko Naing (pictured), along with former prime minister and intelligence chief Khin Nyunt – who ended up under arrest by order of General Than Shwe, head of the former military junta - and one of the promoters of the revolt of the monks in September 2007, dubbed the Saffron Revolution, Shin Gambira.

Burmese analysts and policy experts argue that the caliber of persons released is an indication of a "decisive" step for the country, on the path of democracy and reforms to promote national unity. In particular, Min Ko Naing was perhaps the most famous - after Aung San Suu Kyi - among the political prisoners in Myanmar. In 2003 he organized the first "7 points project" of "democratic reforms", but was the victim of a purge of the system the following year, the work - perhaps – of the former General Than Shwe.

The democratic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has welcomed this latest amnesty, judging it a "positive signal" by Naypyidaw. "We welcome the release - the Nobel Peace Laureate commented, according to a spokesperson - some dissidents are already on the way home."

The Burmese government, in office less than a year, has already ordered the release of political prisoners, showing a real desire to pursue the process of democratic change. At the moment there are no official figures on the number of political prisoners released, but it seems that before the decision today there were still between 600 and 1000 prisoners of conscience in the prisons. It is important to note that the pardon granted today by Thein Sein follows the law 401 (1) of the Code of Burma, and is under the direct responsibility of the President. In the past, however, the power of amnesty was inserted under Article 204 (b), under which the direct and explicit consent of the National Security and Defence Committee was needed. In short, in this case the leader of Burma seems to have taken the initiative on himself, regardless of the opinion of the "big powers" - the military - who have dominated for decades the country.

Meanwhile, yesterday, further witness to the hope of change, the Burmese government signed a landmark ceasefire agreement with the Karen armed movement. The agreement was reached and signed by representatives of the executive and spokesperson for the Karen National Union (KNU) in Hpa-an, capital of Karen State in eastern Myanmar. But the situation still remains critical in the northern Kachin state, where fighting continues between rebel militias and regular army and the situation of hundreds of thousands of refugees is increasingly dramatic.
Printable version
CLOSE X
See also
Aung San Suu Kyi: Political prisoners will be free as soon as possible
08/04/2016 09:53
Burmese govt frees more political prisoners as Aung San Suu Kyi prepares to run for office
14/11/2011
For Obama's visit, the Burmese government frees 450 prisoners
15/11/2012
Aung San Suu Kyi tells Burmese government to release 330 political prisoners
04/07/2012
Petition to free political prisoners in Myanmar
12/03/2009