Myanmar Police to Drop Charges Against Remaining Political Prisoners

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Myanmar prisoner Thet Wai (R), jailed for three months for conducting an illegal protest, greets sympathizers upon his release from Insein prison in Yangon, April 8, 2016.
Myanmar prisoner Thet Wai (R), jailed for three months for conducting an illegal protest, greets sympathizers upon his release from Insein prison in Yangon, April 8, 2016.

Myanmar’s police force is working to drop charges against remaining political prisoners over the next several days under the direction of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, a police official said Wednesday.

“There could be more than 100 charges that we will consider dropping,” officer Tun Min of the Myanmar Police Criminal Department told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“The procedure for this is that police must request that judges at courts abolish the charges first,” he said. “Everything will be done in a short time after we have received orders from courts to drop the charges.”

Charges will be dropped against those prosecuted under Articles 505(b) and 143 of the country’s penal code, as well as Article 18 of the country’s Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, Tun Min said.

Authorities have routinely charged activists under the articles which pertain to unlawful assembly and inciting the public to commit acts against the state.

Government administrators are cooperating with police to wipe out the charges in a matter of days, Tun Min said.

Still behind bars

President Htin Kyaw announced the release of 83 political prisoners on Sunday, although only 63 were set free.

The Myanmar Human Right Commission (MHRC) visited various jails to meet with political prisoners to gain assurances that they would not repeat the actions that got them jailed in the first place, said Min Lwin Oo, an attorney with the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC).

But some disagreed with the MHRC and were not released, he said. About 150 others remain behind bars on political charges.

Nearly 50 prisoners from Shan, Kachin, Karen and Rakhine armed ethnic groups were not released, he said. Another 50 include farmers who had protested against authorities for taking their land and Muslims who were jailed on charges brought by the nationalist Buddhist group Ma Ba Tha.

“To release all these people, the president needs to have agreement from a military chief who is one of the members of the National Defense and Security Council,” Min Lwin Oo said, in a reference to the 11-member panel that recommends prisoners to be considered for amnesty.

“I think there will still be political prisoners in jails even after police have dropped charges against the activists,’ he said.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who also is minister of foreign affairs and the President’s Office in the new administration led by her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, said earlier this month that freeing political prisoners and detained students awaiting trial for participating in a national education policy protest was a government priority.

So far, more than 200 political prisoners, students and activists have been released.

The prisoner releases began a few days before Myanmar’s New Year holiday on April 11, a period when the president has traditionally granted pardons to detainees.

Reported by Kyaw Thu and Khet Mar for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.





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