Human rights situation in Myanmar looks to be improving, but there is a long way to go

Monday, January 6, 2014

The human rights situation in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is looking increasingly hopeful as more and more prisoners are set free. After the military "officially" relinquished power and elections were held for the country's new parliament, political prisoners have been released in spurts, now with only about 100 still awaiting trial (down from 2,600 right before the military released control in 2011). The reformist president, Thein Sein, even declared a year-end amnesty for all remaining political detainees.
Burma released a handful of political prisoners on Tuesday (December 31) after the government announced a year-end amnesty for those held for political reasons.

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State-run MRTV announced the presidential amnesty in a bulletin late on Monday but did not reveal the number due for release; however an organisation that tracks political detainees said it expected 230 to be freed with the remainder released in mid-January.

The EU, United States and other Western countries have increased aid and investment, and suspended most sanctions, partly in response to Burma freeing hundreds of political prisoners and other liberal reforms unimaginable under the junta that ruled for 49 unbroken years.

This amnesty is one of at least a dozen the quasi-civilian government has granted since taking office in March 2011.

During the military’s final years in power, as many as 2,500 people, including activists, journalists, politicians and even comedians and artists, were behind bars. Many were subjected to torture and other inhumane treatment.
Obviously, much more still needs to be done. We have yet to see if the remaining prisoners will go free. Also, while the president has expressed support for a constitutional amendment that would allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (and any woman who aspires to high political office), the details are still fuzzy. As it currently stands, the constitution requires anyone running for high-level political positions to have military experience, and women were excluded from military service until recently.

The following video, by the Democratic Voice of Burma, shows interviews with political prisoners who have been released.

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