Monday, September 26, 2011

Campaigners Send Petition for Release of Political Prisoners

The Burmese Democracy Network (BDN), an unofficial group formed at the urging of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has sent a petition calling for the release of political prisoners to President Thein Sein, according to one of the campaign's organizers.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Monday, former political prisoner Toe Kyaw Hlaing said it was the fourth time the group had sent a petition to demand the release of political detainees.

“We collected signatures from across Burma. This time we reached 100,000,” said Toe Kyaw Hlaing, adding that the BDN started its latest campaign in April.

The petition calls on the new government, formed by Thein Sein in March, to release all political prisoners unconditionally and create an environment where Burmese people living abroad, including members of political organizations in exile and refugees, can return home safely.

Toe Kyaw Hlaing said many people signed the latest petition because people realize that the release of the political prisoners is important for the country.

“For the Thein Sein government to implement democracy in the country, the most important requirement is the immediate release of political prisoners without conditions,” he said.

Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, was the first person to sign the petition, which has also been signed by members of the 88 Generation Students group, as well as prominent politicians, ethnic leaders and activists who did not compete in last year's November election.

Meanwhile, there are reports that activists inside Burma are marching in downtown Rangoon to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2007 Buddhist monk-led Saffron Revolution. According to witnesses, some of the protesters are wearing t-shirts calling for the release of political prisoners.

Sources inside Burma said that rumors are spreading that the government will in fact release a large number of political prisoners in the coming month, and many family members have been waiting for their release.

According to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, there are 1,998 political prisoners in Burma.

However, Vice President Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo, Foreign Affairs Minister Wunna Maung Lwin and presidential political adviser Ko Ko Hlaing have all claimed in conversations with foreign diplomats that the country has no political prisoners.
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