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Monthly Chronology of Burma's Political Prisoners

The laws set to criminalize peaceful dissent continue to reign in the Thein Sein regime, marking the month of August. Reports emerged that two youths were arrested and allegedly tortured for having three posters under their motorbike seat calling for the release of political prisoners. This is not unlawful, especially in light of recent calls by the Parliament requesting the release of political prisoners. Approximately 430 political activists are currently behind bars because of this oppressive law that dates back to the British colonial era, allowing for arbitrarily detention and arrests of activists.

The practice of arbitrarily extending sentences continued in August, with Sithu Zeya appearing in court to face further charges under the Electronic Transactions Act. The 23 year old DVB reporter, currently serving an 8 year sentence, was brutally tortured both during interrogation and in Insein prison, where he was placed in a military dog cell for not following prison regulations.

Updates on the case of Nay Myo Zin, former army captain turned charity worker, reveal the particular contempt in which defecting military personnel are held in. Nay Myo Zin was handed a 10 year sentence for discussing the merits of national reconciliation in an e-mail to a friend overseas. His rights to a fair trial were egregiously violated on a number of counts, beginning with his initial arrest in April without a warrant. Further, Nay Myo Zin’s health rapidly deteriorated since then, strongly hinting he has been tortured. This does not come as a surprise – as former government and military officials who begin to work towards to democracy are subjected to the most brutal torture. His lower vertebrae are shattered and he is also said to have a broken rib, leaving him unable to sit, walk or stand. His requests for external hospitalization have been denied on numerous occasions, forcing him to attend court while lying on a hospital stretcher. Nay Myo Zin’s sentence comes just one day after the conclusion of UN Special Rapporteur Quintana fact-finding mission to Burma, confirming the regime’s absolute insincerity towards achieving national reconciliation.

These cases are a far cry from Thein Sein’s open invitation to all Burmese exiles to return home, saying they will be received with a “benevolent attitude.” The military-backed regime escalated campaigns to court the international community, granting Quintana a 5-day visa into the country for the first time in over a year. He had since been denied entry immediately following his suggestion for an independent investigation into crimes against humanity at the UN General Assembly. During his most recent tour, Quintana was allowed to visit Insein Prison and meet with prisoners , including Nyi Nyi Tun, placed in a military dog cell for his perceived role in organizing a hunger strike, and Phyo Wai Aung, held in solitary confinement since his initial imprisonment over a year ago, and Sithu Zeya. In his concluding press conference, Quintana reiterated his calls for release of political prisoners while raising concerns of the deteriorating prison conditions, including the use of forced labor and prolonged solitary confinement.

The lack of independence and impartiality of the judiciary system was also an issue of major concern to Quintana, who called for “accelerated” efforts to respect the rule of law. The previously mentioned cases coupled with the recent cases of a human rights defender lawyer, Tin Aung Tun, having his license revoked and the enforced disappearance of Man Nyein Maung, a Karen National Union leader, reflect a continued campaign of persecution designed to stop all political activities that oppose the ruling regime. Parliamentary efforts this month to reform the grievously outdated Prison Act and to revoke the crippling 1950 Emergency Provisions Act were immediately rejected. Thein Sein’s international charm campaign thus rings hollow, as the laws that detain activists and criminalize political and peaceful dissent remain solidly in place.

Thanks N Regards,
Assistant Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
Office Ph: 66(၀)55-545495

"There can be no national reconciliation in Burma, as long as there are
political prisoners."

AAPP Monthly Chronology August 20111

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