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Myanmar releases 70 more political prisoners

President promised to free all political detainees

John Zaw, Mandalay

July 23, 2013

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Myanmar freed about 70 political detainees on Tuesday just days after President Thein Sein promised to release all remaining prisoners of conscience during a state visit to the UK.

Ye Aung, a former political prisoner and head of a scrutiny committee charged with monitoring releases established in February, confirmed the number as he called on the government to free all of those still behind bars in Myanmar, which numbered as many as 200 people before Tuesday.

“We hail the president’s promise on releasing political prisoners today but we urge the government to release everyone together at the same time. By releasing group by group the other remaining political prisoners and their relatives will be disappointed,” he said.

Among those released was Lahtahw Brang Shawn, an ethnic Kachin refugee who was given a two-year sentence just last Friday over ties to the rebel Kachin Independence Organization.

Ye Aung said that it was time for Myanmar to end the practice of arbitrary detention as the country continues its reform process which has seen hundreds of prisoners of released, a new parliament and new rights to demonstrate and go on strike.

“Even though the top level of the government is reforming, the lower level authorities’ old habits die hard which is why many activists are still being arrested. The right of every citizen must be upheld in a democratic society,” he said.

Marang Naw San, another Kachin imprisoned over ties to the rebels, was also among those released on Tuesday following her three-year sentence handed down in October and nine months in Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison.

Many people convicted for unlawful association – one of the main charges against political prisoners – remain behind bars, she said.

“I am glad about news of our release but I am so sad for the other remaining political prisoners,” said Marang Naw San.

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