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Hope For Political Prisoners In Burma

Released prisoners leave Insein Prison in Yangon, Burma, October 12, 2011. (file)
Released prisoners leave Insein Prison in Yangon, Burma, October 12, 2011. (file)

Burmese government announces multi-stakeholder commission to review cases of political prisoners.

The Burmese government recently announced the formation of a multi-stakeholder commission to formally review cases and release, hopefully, prisoners of conscience and political prisoners. The Committee on Political Prisoners, led by Soe Thein, Minister of the President’s Office, will be tasked with defining who is a prisoner of conscience among the country's jailed and work to set them free.

Hope For Political Prisoners In Burma
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The United States welcomes the Burmese government's announcement that it has authorized the formation of a Committee on Political Prisoners comprised of government officials, civil society members, and political parties to review and release all remaining political prisoners.

President Thein Sein's government has made good progress on this issue, releasing more than 700 political prisoners in a series of amnesties over the past 18 months. Reports allege that as many as several hundred political prisoners still remain behind bars in Burma. Additionally, we are aware of reports that former political prisoners lack adequate psychosocial support.

President Thein Sein, a former military official, has introduced greater political freedoms, peace talks with ethnic minority armed groups and the successful participation of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party in legislative elections. Aung San Suu Kyi spent most of the last two decades under house arrest before authorities released her in 2011. Many members of her party, the National League for Democracy, were imprisoned under the military junta’s rule.

Western governments have responded to Burmese reforms by easing economic sanctions and stepping up diplomatic ties. In November, President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Burma, signaling strong support for political reforms underway there.

With the creation of the Committee on Political Prisoners, the Burmese government has taken another important step toward national reconciliation. The United States looks forward to supporting the Burmese government’s implementation of an inclusive, transparent process to release all political prisoners.