Political prisoners freed in Myanmar

New president frees a further 73 political prisoners, but activists say peaceful protesters are still regularly arrested and jailed

The president of Myanmar (formerly Burma) has announced that he is freeing a further 73 political protesters, in addition to more than 8,000 such dissidents who’ve been released this year.

President Thein Sein, who came to power in 2011, has relaxed some of the country’s oppressive regimes, but critics say that peaceful protesters are still being imprisoned in the country.

Speaking at a London conference in July, President Thein Sein said that a special committee was reviewing the cases of all political inmates.

But the Asian Human Rights Commission warned that there were still cases where political prisoners are not being recognised as such and would therefore not benefit from the pledge.

It added that if the president’s commitment is to have any meaning, he should also be taking steps to prevent the continued arrest and imprisonment of dissidents.

Amnesty International pointed out that, on the day of the announcement, police detained U Kyaw Hla Aung, a 74-year-old Rohingya peaceful human rights defender, in the country’s Rakhine state.

Amnesty’s Myanmar researcher, Amy Smith, said: “It’s all well and good for Thein Sein to promise an end to prisoners of conscience, but there is a long way to go from what we’ve seen in recent months. The government continues to rely on repressive laws to silence dissents and jail peaceful protesters in Myanmar.”

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said it would seek to provide support to the released Myanmar political prisoners.