Myanmar has 275 political prisoners

Reuters reporter Wa Lone is escorted from the Insein Township courthouse after testifying on July 16, 2018. Photo: Jacob Goldberg

There are 275 people either in prison or out on bail while on trial in Myanmar, according to the most recent figures released by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Among the 275 people, 33 are serving sentences, 53 are in prison while awaiting trial, and 189 are out on bail while undergoing trial, whom the organization still categorizes as prisoners.

Many of the prisoners are facing charges under Section 20 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, which restricts public protests, and Section 17/1 of the Unlawful Association Act, which restricts contact with organizations the government considers illegal.

“We urge the government to give priority to revising and amending repressive laws to protect political and citizens’ rights. By doing this, national peace and reconciliation will be achieved,” AAPP said. The group urged the Myanmar government to release its prisoners of conscience as soon as possible.

The group also called for the elimination of the use of torture against prisoners, which has been documented as recently as this year. After they were arrested in Dec. 2017 for investigating a military massacre of Rohingya civilians, Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were allegedly deprived of sleep for days and forced to kneel for hours.

“Torture, including physical, mental, and sexual abuse, and other forms of abuse are being used systematically in Myanmar, even though they have been defined as crimes against humanity in international law. The use of torture to get information from detainees is still common in detention centers and prisons,” AAPP said, calling on Myanmar to sign the United Nations Convention against Torture.

Myanmar released more than 8,000 prisoners in April under a presidential amnesty, including 36 people listed as political prisoners by AAPP. At the time, Myanmar had 240 political prisoners. Since then, the number has risen above even its pre-amnesty level.

At the time, AAPP representative Aung Myo Kyaw told Reuters: “This amnesty is very good news and we welcome and support it, but there should not be a single political prisoner in a democratic country.”

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