Updated at 1:30 a.m. ET on 2014-01-03
A prominent Myanmar civil society group called Thursday for leaders of the country’s former military junta to be held responsible for atrocities committed against political prisoners during their rule.
Leaders of the 88 Generation Students Group, an organization born out of the 1988 pro-democracy movement crushed by the junta, made the call at a ceremony honoring dozens of political prisoners who died in detention over the past 25 years.
In a speech before the family members of the deceased, group leader Min Ko Naing, said the country’s former leaders should not be exempt from responsibility for the political prisoners’ deaths because they were no longer in power.
“There should be accountability,” he said. "Whether they are now in power or not is not the question. They may not be in the present government.”
“Those once in power and involved in those things but now deposed or retired … are [also] still responsible for some incidents,” he said.
Myanmar’s junta regime stepped down in 2011, transferring power to a nominally civilian government after landmark elections.
Since then, former junta chief Than Shwe, who headed the country from 1992 to 2011, and his deputy Maung Aye, have been living in secluded compounds in Naypyidaw and Yangon.
The government has not issued a formal apology for atrocities including crackdowns on peaceful pro-democracy protests or the arrest of thousands of people locked up in interrogation centers and prisons where they were subjected to harsh conditions.
During the ceremony the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) and Former Political Prisoners Society (FPPS) provided cash to the families of 54 deceased political prisoners in compensation for their deaths.
At the ceremony, Win Tin, a founding member of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy party, called for a formal apology, according to the Irrawaddy journal.
Ko Ko Gyi, another 88 Generation Students leader, said the country’s national reconciliation would not be complete without an acknowledgment of responsibility for wrongdoings, the journal said.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.