Burmese Exile Group: ‘Business as Usual’ for Political Prisoners

Posted March 6th, 2012 at 5:25 am (UTC-5)
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A leading Burmese exile group says the country's military-backed government appears to be conducting “business as usual” when it comes to political prisoners, despite its release of hundreds of prisoners of conscience earlier this year.

The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma said Tuesday that hundreds of political prisoners “remain locked up and subject to awful treatment.”

Burmese authorities released more than 600 political prisoners in January in a move that was widely praised by Western governments and human rights organizations.

But the AAPPB's monthly report said some of those released have been re-arrested, harassed, and had their movements severely restricted.

One of those re-detained is U Gambiya, a high-profile Buddhist monk and former protest leader who was detained for several hours this month after being arrested at a monastery in Rangoon. Many consider such arrests to be warnings for former political prisoners not to re-enter politics.

Burmese President Thein Sein has called for patience as his government carries out a series of democratic reforms that were launched nearly a year ago. The president told parliament this month that the country faces a long and difficult road to fully transform itself after decades of military rule.

Since taking power a year ago, the nominally civilian government has eased restrictions on the press, engaged in dialogue with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and reached cease-fire agreements with several key ethnic rebel forces.

Western governments have said they will consider lifting long-running economic sanctions against Burma if it continues its path to democracy. Many say that Burma's April 1 by-elections will be a key test of whether the country's government is serious about making democratic reforms.