Chittagong, Bangladesh: Burma’s new government freed 615 detainees of its most famous political prisoners on January 13 including prominent student leaders from the 1988 pro-democracy uprising Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi, Buddhist monk Ashin Gambiya, Shan leader Khun Tun Oo, former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and Rohingya MP U Kyaw Min, according to sources.
Among them, there were political activists, leaders of democratic uprisings, a former prime minister, heads of ethnic minority groups, journalists and relatives of former dictator Ne Win.
Rohingya MP U Kyaw Min, hailed from Buthidaung Township who was elected in the 1900 elections, was released along with his family members -- his wife, Daw Ti Zar, two daughters, Wei Wei Nu and Khin Khin Nu, but his son, Ko Aung Naing still remains in Insein prison. The family members had no involvement in politics, but were sentenced to 17 years jail each. Earlier, U Kyaw Min was an Education officer in Buthidaung Township. He is the MP of Arakan Rohingya National Democratic Party for Human Rights (NDPHR) and also a member of the Committee Representing the People’s Parliament (CRPP). He was arrested in 2005 and was sentenced to 47 years imprisonment, said Kyaw Naing, U Kyaw Min’s eldest son.
Rohingya political organizations in exile -- the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO), the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO), Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) and National Democratic Party for Human Rights in exile (NDPHR)-- welcomes the release of a considerable number of key political prisoners in Burma, including members of the 88 Generation Student group. The organizations further welcomes and appreciate the release of U Kyaw Min (alias) Shamsul Anwarul Haque with his wife and two daughters.
In Buthidaung jail, nine political prisoners were released, they are – Ko Htay Kywe, Situ Maung, Thant Zin Myo, Kyaw Min, Htun Nyo, Aung Zaw Oo, Pyay Kyaw, Wunna Pantha, Kyaw Win San, and Maung Maung Latt, according to sources.
A relative of MP U Kyaw Min said, “We would like to thank to President Thein Sein, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, all political activists and international communities and leaders specially--- US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and British Foreign Secretary William Hague---who constantly worked hard for this triumph.”
Releasing prisoners is a “positive sign” for future democratic country. We welcome the release, said a Rohingya leader from Maungdaw Town.
Another businessman from Buthidaung said, “We are highly pleased and delighted of political prisoners of consciences released yesterday. For us, yesterday was our victory Day. Everyone inside Burma and abroad is very happy.”
The message conveyed by Western countries has been clear: They are encouraged by the reform process under President Thein Sein, but economic and political sanctions could not be lifted unless the prisoners were freed, sources said.
“The latest moves come just ahead of visits by some U.S. senators influential in foreign affairs, including Mitch McConnell and John McCain.”
Releasing of political prisoners is a key development in promoting human rights in Burma. But, people believe that there are more than 1,500 political prisoners are still remaining in Burmese jails, said local leader from Maungdaw Town.
Among those released yesterday was Min Ko Naing, a prominent student leader from the failed 1988 pro-democracy uprising. He was serving a 65-year sentence. He was released from Thayet prison. His most recent arrest came in 2007 along with 14 other student leaders while protesting fuel price increases that preceded the monk-led Saffron Revolution, which was violently suppressed.
Among them was Ashin Gambira, 32, a militant monk who led the Saffron Revolution in 2007.
Shan ethnic leader Khun Tun Oo, Chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy and one of Burma’s most famous political prisoners was released from Putao prison, who was serving a 93-year sentence. He was arrested and imprisoned in 2005 as the Shan refused to take part in a military-directed constitution drafting process.
Former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt also was released from house arrest along with his son. He was ousted in 2004 after falling out of favor with the junta and convicted a year later of insubordination and corruption, and sentenced to 44 years of house arrest.
There are 32 prisons across the country, 5,922 prisoners in 2005, 2,831 prisoners in 2007, 9,002 prisoners in 2008, 13,432 prisoners in 2009, 14,578 prisoners in 2001, and 651 political prisoners were released. Within eight years period, Burma’s government released 60, 729 prisoners including 1,258 political prisoners, sources said.