34 resistance fighters from Burma, who had been held in prison in India for more than 13 years, despite never having committed a crime, were released this month.
Burma Campaign UK and other organisations worldwide have been campaigning for their release and in February this year, 38 organisations in 18 countries took part in a global day of action in support of the 34.
They were arrested 13 years ago on Landfall Island by the Indian Military. They appear to have been tricked by a rogue Indian Military intelligence official, who had told them they could land there with the permission and support of the military. These thirty-four resistance fighters never intentionally broke any Indian law. They thought they were in India with the permission of the Indian government.
The thirty-four come from two ethnic nationalities in Burma, Arakanese and Karen, which face persecution from the dictatorship ruling Burma. We are now working to make sure they are guaranteed safety and support, and that they will not be deported back to Burma. We are approaching European countries that may offer them sanctuary.
Political prisoners on hunger strike
Nearly 30 political prisoners, including seven women and three Buddhist Monks, are staging hunger strikes to demand better prison conditions.
Today, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) reported that 7 of the political prisoners who have been on a hunger strike in Insein Prison have been placed in solitary confinement in military dog cells, which are small cells where dogs are usually kept and notorious for brutal torture and extreme punishment.
AAPP has also learnt that the other political prisoners who have been on hunger strike may be transferred to remote prisons as a punishment.
On 16 May, Burma’s new dictator, Thein Sein, announced that all prisoners would have their sentences reduced by one year, and that those on death row would have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. This was designed to avoid releasing senior opposition leaders, many of whom were given sentences of 65 years or more after the pro-democracy uprising in 2007. One political prisoner is serving a 104 year sentence.
There had been speculation that there would be a mass prisoner amnesty, which happens regularly in Burma. However, Thein Sein is increasingly showing himself to be as or more hard-line than former dictator Than Shwe. In the first few months of becoming dictator, Than Shwe first acknowledged that there were political prisoners, and then released 427 political prisoners. Thein Sein’s government denies political prisoners even exist.
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