Press Release Archive

Media inquiries: contact Simon Billenness, USCB Executive Director, at 617-596-6158

- Click on the article of choice then scroll down to view -

FacebookTwitterDiggDeliciousStumbleuponGoogle BookmarksRedditLinkedinRSS Feed
Powered by mod LCA

Thein Sein’s Government Refuses to Release Political Prisoners; Over 2,000 Political Prisoners of Burma Should Be Released Unconditionally Now!!!! (click to view PDF)

Immediate Press Release
May 16, 2011
Media Contact: Jennifer Quigley at (202) 234-8022

(Washington, DC) The U. S. Campaign for Burma (USCB), a Washington, DC-based grassroots organization campaigning to end crimes against humanity and the culture of impunity in the Southeast Asian country of Burma, today strongly denounces the military regime in Burma led by President Thein Sein for its refusal to release all political prisoners immediately and unconditionally, as demanded by the people of Burma and the international community.

Ever since the military generals exchanged their army uniforms for civilian clothing, members of the United Nations and ASEAN countries have held false hopes for Thein Sein’s so-called ‘civilian’ government, expecting it to make positive gestures, such as the freeing of all political prisoners. During a recent three-day visit to Burma, Mr. Vijay Nambiar, Chief of Staff to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and acting UN Special Envoy for Burma, reiterated the demand made by the UN Secretary General himself for the immediate release of political prisoners. He said, “The government [of Burma] has made some very interesting statements… which are very encouraging.”

Encouraging or not is obvious for the world to see. Today, Thein Sein’s government made an announcement granting ‘amnesty’ to prisoners under the order No. 28/2011. According to this so-called ‘amnesty’, only the prisoners on death row will be commuted to life imprisonment and others will receive a one-year deduction from their current prison terms. And the regime continues to deny the existence of political prisoners in the country. If this is Thein Sein’s response to the demand of Mr. Vijay Nambiar and the UN Secretary General, this could hardly be considered as progress. 

Currently in Burma, there are more than 2,000 political prisoners. For their conviction to freedom and democracy in Burma, these courageous men and women were arrested, tortured, and imprisoned on false charges. Among them are leaders of the 88 General Students’ group and members of All Burma Monks’ Alliance, former Members of Parliament, and ethnic leaders including Khun Htun Oo, General Sao Htin, Sai Nyunt Way, and U Nyi Pu. Many of them are being incarcerated in various remote prisons throughout the country. They all are serving lengthy prison terms of 65 years and up. Such trivial one-year deduction will not relieve their suffering.

“Today, Thein Sein’s government has shown its true colors. What we witness today is a reminder for those who believe that there is a new civilian government in Burma and reforms are on the way that it is merely a continuation of military rule and military mindset under a veneer of civilian guise”, says Aung Din, former political prisoner and Executive Director of the U.S. Campaign for Burma.

“The wait-and-see approach for the military regime in Burma to make positive gestures in the country does not and will not work, as shown by this latest incident. They now wear civilian clothing, but their murderous and oppressive behaviors have not changed. Only through concerted actions by the international community can we help secure the release of political prisoners in Burma. I call on President Obama to take the lead in the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry in Burma to apply additional and much-needed pressure on the Burmese regime,” Aung Din continues.

Recently, 31 Members of House of Representatives, led by Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Donald Manzullo (R-IL) (Chairman of House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific), Frank Wolf (R-VA) and James McGovern (D-MA) (both are Co-chairs of the Tom Lantos’ Human Rights Commission), and Howard Berman (D-CA) (Ranking Member of House Committee on Foreign Affairs) urged President Obama to “redouble the United States efforts, at the highest levels, to establish the (UN) Commission (of Inquiry)”.. The Members wrote to President Obama in a letter, dated April 28, 2011 that, “We acknowledge the steps that have already been taken by your Administration in support of an international investigation, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s statement in November 2010, in which she said, ”I would like to underscore the American commitment to seek accountability for the human rights violations that have occurred in Burma by working to establish an international Commission of Inquiry through close consultations with our friends, allies, and other partners at the United Nations.” The recent evidence of the military regime’s continued egregious crimes against humanity continues, however, requires a renewed sense of urgency with regard to this matter.”

The military regime in Burma has completed its seven-step road map to democracy; its last step was the formation of a so-called civilian government led by a former military general Thein Sein, whose cabinet is comprised of active-duty and retired generals. The regime’s mass organization, the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), notorious for its brutal crackdown on democracy activists and the assassination attempt of Aung San Suu Kyi in the Depayin Massacre in May 2003, is acting as the regime’s proxy arm and election winning party. Burma is now ruled by two sets of boots – the military run by currently-serving generals and its proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), run by retired generals. Meanwhile, severe fighting has broken out between the regime’s troops and ethnic resistance groups in several ethnic states, including Shan, Karen, Kachin, Karenni and Mon. In the latest military operation, the regime’s troops destroyed several ethnic minority villages. As a result, thousands of ethnic villagers are being forced to porter for the military, carrying heavy arsenal and acting as human minesweepers. Fighting is expected to escalate in the future as the regime is reinforcing its military presence in these areas by deploying thousands of additional troops and using heavy artillery, including cannons, tanks, and missiles.