Burma’s prisoner amnesty a ‘mockery’

The Burmese government’s decision to issue an amnesty order to reduce all prisoners’ sentences by one year that was issued in May has been widely criticized and condemned by political opposition parties and international humanitarian groups.

The New York based Human Rights Watch said.

“The government’s gesture will be welcomed by a great many prisoners in Burma, but for the 2,100 political prisoners unjustly serving sentences of up to 65 years, the one-year reduction is a sick joke,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “This is a pathetic response to international calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners.”

U Myo from Burma Lawyer Council (BLC) said the amnesty was a fraud and far from genuine.

“An amnesty should mean absolute release from prison. But now, it is only reducing sentences by a year. It doesn’t go with the true meaning of an amnesty. It makes very little difference for the prisoners or to their families if someone with 50-year sentence has it reduced by one year and they still have to serve for 49 years. It is good they have reduced the death penalty to a life sentence. Political prisoners [jailed] under the previous regime are not related to the new civilian government, they could have freed them all.”

Ko Tate Naing, secretary of Association Assistance for Political Prison – Burma (AAPP) said that as Burma’s new president, Thein Sein, should have released all political prisoners and opened negotiations with armed ethnic groups to solve the country’s problems.

“Transition from a military regime to a civilian government is a big change for Burma’s political scene. It was an opportunity for all political prisoner and armed group related prisoners to be released.”

The Karen National Union (KNU) does not recognized the new government, its vice chairman P’ doh Saw
David Thakapaw said that Thein Sein’s government is not civilian government, it is the military regime’s puppet government and the amnesty is a cheap stunt.

“This is a trick. What the people want is for all the political prisoners to be released. This is intended to deceive the international community. Thein Sein and his government are not doing what the people want. They don’t do according to the will of the people, the Thein Sein government is a puppet and the military is holding the strings.”

Human Right Watch and the England based Burma Campaign UK have put out a combined statement condemning the amnesty.

Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK said.

“It is not surprising, as Thein Sein continues to detain democracy activists. This is not a real change for Burma.”

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