Burma frees 450 prisoners before Obama’s visit but what about the real HRDs?

November 15, 2012

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Human rights campaigners say no dissidents are among prisoners to be released in ‘goodwill gesture’ reports Jason Burke in Delhi (guardian.co.uk, Thursday 15 November 2012)

The Guardian and many other newspapers have announced that the Burmese authorities have freed more than 450 detainees in a goodwill gesture before a historic visit by the US president Obama but local and international human rights campaigners said the list of released prisoners did not include any political dissidents.

Announcing the amnesty – the latest in a series that have coincided with high-profile visits of foreign dignitaries or trips by senior Burmese leaders overseas – state media said late on Wednesday that its aim was “to help promote goodwill and the bilateral relationship”. A home ministry official told Reuters that a certain number of the remaining 300 political prisoners would be released. However Bo Kyi, of the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), said no prisoners of conscience had been freed so far. “All are common criminals or foreign nationals …… We know of no political prisoners among the 452 freed today,” he said.

However the Wall Street Journal (15 Nov)  just reported that U Myint Aye, a 61-year-old human rights activists and one of the most high-profile dissidents currently detained, held at Loikaw, was included.

No word on Aung Naing either (see my post of 24 September this year).

Let’s wait and see whether President Obama is willing to press for a more substantive release.

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