Number of Political Prisoners Released since 2014 ‘disappointing’ amid new ‘crackdown’ on dissidents

The number of political prisoners that have been released since 2014 is incredibly low given the number of overall prisoners released during that same period, an organisation representing political prisoners has said.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) noted that while 6,966 prisoners had been released since an amnesty in October 2014, only 13 of those were political prisoners.

“This number is drastically disproportionate to the amount of political activists currently detained, with the 13 political prisoners all serving relatively short terms of imprisonment, or had in some cases almost completed their sentences,” the AAPP said in a statement.

The statement came as 153 Chinese nationals charged with illegal logging, were granted release after serving only 10 days into their life sentences, following intense diplomatic protests from China – highlighting the considerable influence China, a major trading partner, has in Burma.

The Burma Campaign UK accused President Thein Sein in a media statement of using recent amnesties and the release of prisoners to generate publicity to make the government look like it was living up to promises made to the international community.

“Although these [amnesties ] were usually used in tandem with key political moments and visits by foreign leaders to garner good publicity, significant numbers of political prisoners were released and his government was actively engaged on the issue.”

Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK said in the media statement that, “Rather than any comprehensive effort to ensure there are no political prisoners, we are now back to waiting for the annual prisoners amnesty and hoping a few political prisoners are included.”

The AAPP also said the government was cracking down on political opponents as nationwide elections set to be held in November, loom closer.

“With the number of arrests of political and human rights activists on the rise, it is evident that the government is increasingly cracking down on fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression in the run up to general election,” the AAPP said.

According to AAPP statistics, there are currently 120 political prisoners behind bars and a further 444 awaiting trial.

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