‘No political detainees’ among Burma 3,000 freed

President Thein Sein has vowed to free all political prisoners. Picture: Getty
President Thein Sein has vowed to free all political prisoners. Picture: Getty
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The Burmese government ­pardoned 3,073 prisoners yesterday, but advocacy groups said no political prisoners were ­included, despite a pledge by the ­president to free all such detainees this year.

The ministry of information announced the amnesty on its website, saying the prisoners were being freed “on humanitarian grounds”. It did not mention political prisoners.

Most of those released had committed minor crimes, but at least eight were former intelligence officers jailed a decade ago as part of a political purge.

The release came a month ahead of a summit of Asia-
Pacific leaders to be held in Burma.

Ye Aung, a former political detainee and a member of the official Political Prisoner Scrutiny Committee, initially said 13 political prisoners would be freed, but later said that was incorrect. “According to the list we are given, there are no political prisoners among those freed today,” he said.

Ye Aung said those released included 58 foreigners, but provided no details about them.

Bo Kyi of the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners also said he had not heard of any political prisoners being released. “The majority are criminals. We told the government earlier that releasing criminals increases crime and measures should be taken to prevent it,” he said.

According to the association, there were 80 political activists incarcerated in Burma at the end of September, and 130 
others were awaiting trial for political actions.

President Thein Sein, a former general elected in 2011 after five decades of military rule, has pledged to free all political offenders by the end of the year. He has released more than 1,000 political prisoners since taking office but critics say people continue to be locked up for political offenses under his military-backed government.

Those freed included at least eight former senior military intelligence officers detained after the 2004 ousting of former 
intelligence chief and prime minister Khin Nyunt.

Khin Nyunt was deposed after fellow junta leaders accused him of insubordination and aiding corruption. He was given a 
44-year sentence under house arrest but was freed in a 2012 amnesty. More than three dozen senior intelligence officers linked to him received sentences from 20 to more than 100 years on various bribery and corruption charges, in what was seen as a power struggle within the country’s then-ruling military.

In recent years media restrictions in Burma have been relaxed and the opposition has rejoined the political process. In response, most international sanctions were loosened. However, human rights groups have consistently called for the 
release of all political prisoners.