1,500 Political Prisoners Remain: AAPP


source from Irrwaddy news, 26 Dec 2011

More than 1,500 political prisoners remain in Burmese prisons, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners -Burma (AAPP), despite assurances from a government advisor that only 300 “prisoners of conscience” are now behind bars.

Based on its most recent figures, AAPP said there are at least 1,572 individuals in Burma who have been arrested and sentenced on political grounds, and are believed to currently be in prison.

AAPP Secretary Tate Naing told The Irrawaddy on Monday that his organization conducted a nationwide survey in 42 prisons and 109 forced labor camps and an unknown number of secret detention centers.

AAPP began its investigation in September. It says its main sources of information are inside networks, confidential inside sources, documents from court proceedings, recently released political prisoners, and families of political prisoners, according to AAPP statement on Friday.

So far, AAPP has released evidence verifying 918 political prisoners and the exact location of their prison.

Ko Ko Hlaing, an advisor to the Thein Sein government, told a Swedish radio station in October that Burma only had around 600 prisoners of conscience, half of whom were released at the beginning of that month.

During negotiations with leaders of the rebel Karen National Union (KNU) in the Thai border town of Mae Sot on Dec. 21, Aung Min, the government’s Railways Minister, stated that the remaining political prisoners will be freed in early January.

However, Tate Naing said, “We will not recognize that all political prisoners have been released if they only let go the [300] political prisoners that the government advisor mentioned.

“If the government says it doesn’t have any political prisoners, we want them to allow a group of investigators inside to check,” he said.

He added that it is not politicians alone that constitutes political prisoners, but anyone who is detained on political grounds.

The AAPP called on President Thein Sein to officially acknowledge the existence of political prisoners in Burma, and to publicly disclose criteria for political prisoners, as well as make prisoner lists publicly available.

It also called for the immediate and uncondition release all political prisoners and that their criminal records are erased. The AAPP urged the government to authorize an independent and investigative body, perhaps led by the UN, to enter Burma’s prisons and verify the number of political prisoners.

AAPP maintains that the number of political prisoners is likely much higher than its own figure, given the lack of access and reliable information in remote ethnic areas, monasteries and during periods of mass arrests, compounded by the absolute lack of transparency surrounding Burmese prisons.

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