Burma: Hundreds remain imprisoned despite human rights dialogue
The human rights organisation is disappointed that, despite the military government's pledges to improve human rights in the country, the pace of releases of political prisoners has decreased and new arrests for peaceful political activities continue.
During the Amnesty International mission in February the organisation gave the military government lists of political prisoners whose release should have been urgently prioritised, including members of parliament-elect and people who should be released on humanitarian grounds. Not one of those on the lists has been released.
Amnesty International said: 'We welcome our ongoing dialogue with the military government and look forward to future visits to Burma, when we will investigate the human rights situation further. However we are disappointed that the military government has not released prisoners who are ill, elderly, or are imprisoned with their young Children's rights.'
Among those whom Amnesty International asked to be released as a matter of urgency is U Htwe Myint, a 73-year-old prisoner of conscience with multiple health problems, and Ma San San Maw, a prisoner of conscience held at Insein Prison with her 19-month-old child.
At the time of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's release in May 2002 the military government State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) publicly renewed its commitment to release political prisoners. It had begun to release some in January 2000, and hundreds have been freed since then, including a group released in mid March 2003.
However many political prisoners have not been released unconditionally, and since July 2002 new arrests of people for peaceful political activities have begun again. Amnesty International has recently submitted a further list of 27 of these people to the SPDC, and is seeking further information about them. Amnesty International has called again for the SPDC to release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally.
Amnesty International's first ever visit to Burma took place from 30 January until 8 February 2003. After the trip, the organisation publicly welcomed the SPDC's cooperation in facilitating the visit, and the open and cordial discussions between government officials and Amnesty International.
The SPDC has taken a number of positive steps in the last three years. These include permission for an International Labour Organisation (ILO) presence in Burma to work with the SPDC on the elimination of forced labour of civilians by the military. Amnesty International has also noted an improvement in prison conditions during this period.