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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/7/13

Burma initiates a committee scrutinizing the political prisoners left behind

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The President Office of Myanmar (Burma) has released an instruction Wednesday to form a committee to scrutinize the remaining political prisoners serving their terms in prisons throughout the country so as to grant them liberty, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper said today.

Government of Burma has been granting amnesty to prisoners of conscience serving their terms in prisons across the nation, with a view to ensuring peace and stability and lasting peace of the State, national reconciliation, inclusiveness in political process, the state-run newspaper said. The government has been turning the prisoners to ones who take their fair shares in State building realizing fair-mindedness of the government, the newspaper added.

According to the NLM, the scrutinizing committee for remaining political prisoners is reportedly to be chaired by Union Minister at the President Office U Soe Thane and to be constituted with representatives from government ministries, civil society organizations and some political parties.

The committee will define the meaning of prisoners of conscience and coordinate for a set of framework for releasing and scrutinize the remaining political prisoners and report the findings to the President.

Taik Naing (General-Secretary) and Bo Kyi (Joint-Secretary) of Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) based in Thailand have visited Yangon since 5 January   so as to cooperate with other civil based organizations and political parties all for release of the remaining political prisoners as well as their rehabilitation, according to media reports.

They planned to meet up the government authorities, politicians and members of 88 Generation Students Group during their visit.

Before the trip, Bo Kyi explained about AAPP's purpose concerning freedom of the prisoners of conscience and to do away with repressive laws still in force. The Association would go together with the 88 Student Generation group to reach its objective, Bo Kyi added. Although the President Thein Sein government released several political prisoners, he said, there are as many as 200 left behind bars.

According to AAPP, "Torture in Burma's interrogation centres and prisons is brutal and systematic. Political prisoners are subject to extreme physical assaults resulting in internal bleeding and unconsciousness. In Burma, torture is not limited to physical assaults, but extends to the authorities maintenance of general prison conditions and the ineptness of the prison health care system. Prison authorities routinely and deliberately aggravate prison conditions and deny medical care to political prisoners, causing a level of suffering that amounts to torture." (Eight seconds of silence, The Death of Democracy Activists behind Bars, AAPP, May 2006.)

AAPP has documented numerous cases of torture of political prisoners occurred since 1988.   The organization warns that this work is by no means exhaustive, as most former political prisoners remain inside Burma, unable to speak about their torture for fear of repercussions.

According to AAPP, "political prisoners are deprived of food, water, sleep, light, and use of the toilet during interrogation and punishment. ["] Political prisoners are punched, kicked, slapped, kneed, and beaten with a variety of [instruments], including rubber or wooden batons, truncheons, rifle butts, rubber cords, bamboo sticks and plastic pipes." AAPP describes various positions in which prisoners are placed, "In one form, a political prisoner is strung up by their feet and then spun around repeatedly. Another form is when a prisoner is made to assume the position of an "airplane.' ["] In some cases, the prisoners' faces are covered with cloth as water is poured over them making it impossible to breath. ["] Electric shocks have been administered to political prisoners, and are generally applied to the most sensitive parts of a person's body, including the genitals." AAPP reported that the use of psychological torture has increased over the years in Burma. The Darkness We See, Torture in Burma's Interrogation Centers and Prisons, AAPP, December 2005.)

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) is a human rights organization based in Mae Sot, Thailand that works for the release of all political prisoners and for the improvement of prison conditions inside Burma. Set up in 2000, AAPP is entirely run by former political prisoners.

It carries out a range of activities on behalf of Burma's political prisoners. AAPP is widely recognized as a reliable and credible source of information on political prisoner issues in Burma, by the United Nations, governments, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and respected media outlets around the world.

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Zin Linn was born on February 9, 1946 in a small town in Mandalay Division. He began writing poems in 1960 and received a B.A (Philosophy) in 1976. He became an activist in the High School Union after the students' massacre on 7th July 1962. (more...)

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