Burma’s Latest Amnesty Not Good Enough, Say Activists

Posted September 19th, 2012 at 3:45 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Activists and rights groups are responding cautiously to Burma's latest release of political prisoners, saying hundreds more are still being held despite the government's promise to release them.

The Burmese government said this week that 514 prisoners would be released as part of a general amnesty. Activists estimate that around 90 of those pardoned are prisoners of conscience.

It was the fourth amnesty declared in the past year by the government of President Thein Sein, which has also eased press restrictions, allowed greater political participation, and signed ceasefire deals with some rebel groups.

But Human Rights Watch said in a statement Wednesday that the amnesty falls short of the president's commitment to release all political prisoners. The New York-based group wants independent monitors to be allowed into Burmese prisons to determine how many political prisoners remain behind bars.

Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said Tuesday that her party, the National League for Democracy, estimates there are still 200 political prisoners behind bars. The Nobel laureate, currently on a tour of the United States, said Burma cannot have real democracy until all prisoners of conscience are released.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also acknowledged Tuesday that Burma still has “a lot of work to do,” citing the political prisoners that remain in detention, as well as ongoing sectarian violence.

President Thein Sein's amnesty came a week before he travels to the U.S. to attend the United Nations General Assembly session. Human Rights Watch wants donor governments to use the visit to press him into releasing all remaining political prisoners and allowing international monitors unhindered access to Burma's jails.