Jan 04, 2012

Burma: United States Call For Release All Political Prisoners

The Obama administration also called for inclusive dialogue with ethnic minorities

Below is an article published by Irrawaddy:

Reiterating that it is committed to “principled engagement” with Burma, the Obama administration used the occasion of Burma’s Independence Day to call for the release of all political prisoners, and for dialogue between the Burmese government and ethnic minorities.

“The United States remains committed to pursuing principled engagement, and we are prepared to provide further support as reforms proceed and progress is made toward realizing the democratic aspirations of the Burmese people,” the State Department spokesperson, Victoria Nuland, said on Wednesday.

“We are unwavering in our support for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Burma,” she said.

“We continue to call for the release of all political prisoners, a halt to hostilities in ethnic areas, and an inclusive dialogue with ethnic minorities toward national reconciliation, space for all political parties to freely compete in April 1 by-elections, and full implementation of legislation to protect universal freedoms of expression, assembly and association,” Nuland said.

Earlier in the day at her daily news conference, Nuland said the US considers that even one political prisoner is one political prisoner too many.
34 political dissidents were among the 467 prisoners released from Rangoon’s Insein Prison on Tuesday under an amnesty order by the new government, according to Thailand-based Assistant Association for Political Prisoners (Burma). They had little time remaining on their sentences.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the issue recently while she was in Burma. “We have seen this clemency order which has reduced some prison sentences,” she said. “We understand up to 10 prisoners or so have now been released because, under the reduced sentencing, their sentences are completed,” she said.

“We remain concerned about the more than a thousand political prisoners that remain in custody. So we will continue to make the case to the government in Naypyidaw that it is a full political prisoner release that the international community wants to see,” she said in response to a question.

Meanwhile, the limited release of political prisoners was due to the internal power struggle between hardliners and president Thein Sein's faction, according to sources in government circles.

The decision to release political prisoners was discussed at the National Defense and the Security Council, but the final decision was reportedly made by the president. According to government sources, the hardline faction resisted has freeing all political prisoners, but the president's office said that more will be released in February—including “some surprises