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Further Signs Of Change In Burma

Two Myanmar policemen stand guard outside a gate of Insein Prison in Yangon, Myanmar, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011.
Two Myanmar policemen stand guard outside a gate of Insein Prison in Yangon, Myanmar, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011.

International Red Cross will resume visiting detainees in Burma's prisons.

Following talks with government leaders in Burma, the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, announced that it will resume its work in the Southeast Asian nation visiting detainees in Burmese prisons.

Further Signs Of Change In Burma
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Restrictions imposed by Burma’s former military government had prevented ICRC staff from checking on political prisoners and other inmates there since 2005. In 2011, the junta ceded power to a civilian-led government. The United States welcomes the ICRC announcement, which reflects further important progress in Burma’s efforts toward reform.

The ICRC, whose work is based on the Geneva Conventions, often serves as the only link between prisoners and their families. Once their prison visit operations have been re-established, ICRC staff will regularly meet prisoners at dozens of jails and labor camps, check on their health and treatment, and provide them with soap and medicine. ICRC leaders praised the Burmese government for committing to allow them unfettered access to Burma’s prisons and the “positive attitude” of President Thein Sein and other officials. The Burmese government has also committed to permitting ICRC access to conflict-affected areas.

The agreement follows Burma’s announcement that it has revoked a tough law imposed by the former military regime aimed at cracking down on the nation’s political dissidents. Under that statute, anyone who criticized the government in speech or written statements could be imprisoned for up to 20 years.

The United States has encouraged Burma to undertake such political and legal reforms to amend and/or repeal dozens of similarly oppressive policies. We will continue to work with both the Burmese government and civil society to support a more transparent, democratic and open society in that nation.