Monday, October 17, 2011

Myanmar on the Move

"Myanmar to release 6,359 prisoners" October 12, 2011|Washington Post

RANGOON, Myanmar - Myanmar announced amnesty yesterday for 6,359 prisoners, a group expected to include hundreds of political prisoners whose release would be a dramatic sign of opening after nearly 50 years of autocratic rule.

The United States and Europe have long demanded the release of political prisoners as a condition for the lifting of economic sanctions on Myanmar, also known as Burma.
As they arrest protesters.

The sanctions tightly restrict investment, trade, and financial transactions. Easing them would probably accelerate a realignment of Myanmar’s previously close relations with authoritarian China, which was stunned last month when Myanmar President Thein Sein halted construction of a mammoth Chinese-financed dam in the north of the country. Thein Sein leaves this week on a trip to India, which has long competed with China for influence and business deals here. 

Related: Slow Saturday Special: Dam Democracy in Myanmar

State-controlled media in Myanmar said the releases of inmates would begin today, a Buddhist religious holiday. The announcement did not name those due to be freed, but both supporters and opponents of the regime, as well as diplomats, said they believe the amnesty will cover many prodemocracy activists.

The announcement came on the same day that a newly established human rights commission in Myanmar issued an open letter to Thein Sein, urging him to free “prisoners of conscience’’ who do not pose a “threat to the stability of the state and public tranquility.’’

Such prisoners, who are scattered in jails across the country, include former student leaders who have been in prison since pro-democracy protests in 1988.