History & Current Events
The Current Status of Political Prisoners
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners - Burma, Annual Report for 2012
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma has released its annual report for the previous year, documenting their achievements, its use of funds, the current situation for political prisoners in Burma and how this will affect its focus for the coming year. You can read the full report here.
The concerns of the AAPP include healthcare for those currently in prison and those who have been released, education for political prisoners and their children, mental health counselling and social support. They are also heavily involved in advocacy and lobbying efforts to increase international awareness of the plight of political prisoners.
In summarising the year, the AAPP remark that:
‘The year 2012 will be remembered for the unprecedented number of prominent political prisoners released in Burma… Since January there have been four prisoner amnesties resulting in the release of 500 political prisoners.’
Yet they stress that this is far from the full story, as their criminal records remain, which could prevent a former political prisoner from getting a passport, as well as employment and educational opportunities.
Releases are not necessarily a reflection of greater respect for basic principles of civil and political rights, as arbitrary detentions are still are common part of life in Burma:
‘In the 12 month period from January to the end of December, at least 120 individuals have been detained and face criminal charges. The charges are unlawful, as those detained are not informed of the charges being brought against them and families are not informed of their loved one’s whereabouts… This repressive harassment targets primarily ethnic nationals fleeing conflict zones and protestors who challenge state-backed initiatives and corporations for appropriating their lands, resources and livelihood.’
The year saw a dramatic increase in the number of public demonstrations and peaceful protests after a bill signed by President U Thein Sein on 2 December 2011 superficially legalised protests, but ultimately did not give protesters protection from arrest or harrasement.
In the Letpadaung copper mine protests, in which 1,500 people demonstrated, at least 70 protestors were sent to hospital for treatment caused by police-led abuse during the protest, with 8 seeking emergency medical care.
Human Rights Watch World Report - 2013
The Human Rights Watch mentioned the state of political prisoners in the annual report. They stated: 'President Thein Sein welcomed back exiles during the year, and released nearly 400 political prisoners in five general prisoner amnesties, although several hundred are believed to remain in prison.' Read their full report on Burma here.
18 January 2012 - Four prisoners released
On 18 Jan. 2012 Aung Hmine San, Than Htike, Min Naing Lwin and Thein Aung Myint, who had been detained for 33 days for protesting without permission, were released from prison. Burma Campaign UK drew attention to their arrest by naming them the political prisoners of the month, as part of the ‘No Political Prisoner Left Behind’ campaign. Read their press release here. While their release is a positive step, those involved received no compensation and will have to live with a criminal record, while the law which allows this kind of arbitrary arrest for protesting remains.
Summary - December 2012
These numbers are taken from the monthly report of the AAPP. Read the full report here.
There were 6 arrests, 3 sentences and 4 releases in the month of December, 2012.
Torture and Treatment of Prisoners and their Families
There was no news to report this month.
Eight people arrested for their participation in the Letpadaung Copper Mine protests were released this
month on bail from Insein Prison on the 11th of December but still await trial.
Journalists, Bloggers and Writers (media activists)
This year, for the first time since 1996, no journalists were jailed. Previously banned publications like the Irrawaddy and Mizzima were permitted to return to the country and the local media industry is growing. However, Burma still ranks a dismal 187 out of 197 countries in the 2012 Freedom House Freedom of Press Report.
Despite many positive changes in Burma, the arrest and harassment of Burmese women activists
continues. Two female activists were shortly released from prison this month but will still face trial and a third woman activist is facing charges.
19 November 2012: Prisoners released
Burmese state media announced that 66 prisoners were released on 19 November 2012 - the day of US President Obama's visit to Burma. Of these, the AAPP has confirmed that at least 45 are political prisoners, including human rights defender U Myint Aye. However, so far all prisoners have been released under section 401 of Burma’s code of criminal procedures, which allows the state to re-arrest any individual at will. For more information see: http://www.dvb.no/news/at-least-43-political-prisoners-released/24883. For a list of the political prisoners released see the PDF at the side of the page.
AAPPB Estimate, November 2010
Prior to the November 2010 elections it was estimated by Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) (AAPPB) that there were around 2200 political prisoners in Burma; since then the civilian-backed government has released a number of political prisoners as part of several amnesty grants to prisoners, bringing estimates to between 600-1700.