Myanmar grants amnesty on first day of peace talks

Myanmar grants amnesty on first day of peace talks
Burmese President Thein Sein.

MYANMAR - Myanmar released 56 political prisoners in a presidential amnesty on Tuesday, the same day peace talks began between the government and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO).

Nearly all the prisoners of conscience released had been arrested for their connection with ethnic armed groups or their members. They were imprisoned for unlawful association in accordance with Act 17(1), said Ye Aung, a member of the scrutiny committee for remaining political prisoners.

"What I know about today's release is that, of the 56 political prisoners due for release, only one is from Insein prison in Yangon. The majority of them are from ethnic armed groups. The released prisoners are those whose cases have been followed by the scrutiny committee," said Ye Aung.

Among the prisoners released by the presidential amnesty, 27 are from the Kachin Independence Organisation/ Army (KIO/KIA), 20 are from Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), and four are from the Rehabilitation Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA). Political prisoners of national races, such as Palaung and Naga, are also represented among those released.

Those granted amnesty were released from various prisons, including those based in Bhamaw, Khanti, Kalay, Katha, Lashio, Meikhtila, Myitkyina, Thibaw, Kengtung, Monghsat, and Taunggyi.

"The release of people arrested by Act 18, 505 (Kha) is the main concern we have with the government. They said that discussions regarding the people arrested during their administration will be held later," said Bo Kyi, a member of the scrutinising committee.

"We are urging the government to release Naw Ohn Hla. Everyone will raise questions if they don't give amnesty to Naw Ohn Hla. We will discuss the matter in the coming meeting. We from the Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), along with the Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD), the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Network (HRDP) and Former Political Prisoners Federation met on March 14 and defined the word 'political prisoner.' Those who meet the definition will be marked as political prisoners."

In April, 93 prisoners of conscience were released, and in May, a total of 23. In July, 73 political prisoners were released by presidential amnesty with the approval of the scrutinising committee.

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