A Burmese court on Friday released 69 political prisoners on Friday. The jailed student activists were freed following Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s promise on Thursday that a priority of her National League of Democracy government would be the release of activists and political prisoners.
A large crowd outside the Tharrawaddy courthouse celebrated the release of the 69 students with songs and jubilant cheers. It was reported that the judge said that the student activists were released without charge. More than a year ago the students were arrested for demonstrating against education laws that restricted academic freedoms. The students took to their protest to the streets in March 2015 until a vicious police crackdown. International human rights organisations condemned the violent police response as they suppressed the student demonstrators.
On Friday, the pro-democracy activists called for the rest of the student protestors held in jail to be immediately released. At least four are now waiting to be charged by the courts.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners estimate that Burma’s jails still contain more than a 100 political prisoners and as many as 400 activists are held in captivity waiting trial.
Ms Suu Kyi is a former political prisoner, as are 100 of her newly elected Members of Parliament.
Human Rights Watch, deputy Asia director, Mr Phil Robertson, told the The Bangkok Post that he “welcomed the students’ release, but urged Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) Party to amend the laws used to imprison peaceful protesters.” Mr Robertson told The Bangkok Post that the NLD has to not only “release political prisoners but they also have to do away with these rights-abusing laws. The NLD has an absolute majority in both houses of the national assembly. They can do it.”