AAPP: No ‘Distinctive Results’ in Struggle to End Political Imprisonment Under NLD

There is also no clear definition of what it means to be a political prisoner in Burma.


Friday, May 17, 2019

There are currently 331 people facing prosecution for the political activities in Burma, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), but that under the current National League for Democracy (NLD) government, there is no clear definition of what makes someone a political prisoner and no significant gains in ending this practice.

“There are some political prisoners released within the three rounds of Presidential pardons. But, there are still 20 political prisoners left in prison. The main reason is that there is no clear definition for political prisoners. This is an important basic point,” AAPP secretary U Tate Naing told NMG.

U Tate Naing said that the struggle for a more democratic society continues under the NLD.

“The government and other respective organizations are still debating issues related to political prisoners until today,” he explained. “Some people see these people not as political prisoners, but some people think that these people are political prisoners because of their political movements. On the other hand, the authorities don’t see that these people are doing things for the better future of our country.”

There were 48 political prisoners in different prisons at the end of April 2019. According to AAPP’s April report released on May 15, 90 activists are facing trial from prison and 193 activists are facing trial while not imprisoned.

Both ex-President U Thein Sein and the current NLD government have said they aimed to have no political prisoners in country, but people continue to be jailed for political reasons.

People like Tate Naing say they are dissatisfied with the current situation.

“In my opinion, this government must try hard, because 10 percent of MPs who are currently sitting in Parliament are former political prisoners,” he pointed out. “Some of them are really trying for [their release] but there is no distinctive result.”

In AAPP’s April report, it was revealed that five villagers from Ouk-Kan-Thar village in Rakhine State’s Mrauk-U township are being prosecuted for allegedly violating Article 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act. In addition, the vice chairperson and another member of the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) were charged under the same law and sentenced to two years in prison.

Moreover, three people from Chinletwa village in Chin State’s Paletwa Township are being prosecuted under 17(1) and 17(2). Two monks, alleged members of the Arakan Army and a villager from Mawrawaddy in Maungdaw Township, Rakhine State, have been charged under an counter-terrorism statute.

Those within the ABSDF were released from prison with a presidential pardon on May 7.

“Our comrades were charged with Article 17(1). We already said that it wasn’t a fair decision,” ABSDF chairman U Than Khe said. “I want to say that this is a second time ABSDF members have been charged. From now on, I want authorities to avoid this kind of accusation and charges against us in the future.”

AAPP said that 22 people were prosecuted in April alone for their involvement in political activities. They were charged with violating the penal code’s articles 505(a) and (b), Article 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act, the peaceful assembly law, and Section 50(a) of the Counter-Terrorism Law.