Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Burma releases 113 prisoners from Buthidaung jail

(Kaladan Press) - Buthidaung, Arakan State: Burma has released 113 prisoners including Rakhine and Rohingya from Buthidaung jail in Arakan State on February 22 night. Among the freed were 22 Rakhine and the rest were Rohingya prisoners, said a relative one of the released prisoners on condition of anonymity.

Burma announced the release of over 6,000 prisoners including 11 political prisoners, five monks, six NLD members and other prisoners, from prisons across the country on February 22, according to State television and radio.

The Burmese ruling junta has persistently denied the presence of political prisoners in the country’s jail. People believe that about 2,162 political prisoners and some religious persons are still in detention in various jails. They were arrested in 2003, but military junta persistently denies it. They (junta) claimed that they all are criminals, sources said.

The junta released the prisoners to participate in the general election to be held in 2010, for ushering in democracy in keeping with the regime’s seven-point road-map.

The announcement came a day after UN human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana wrapped up a six-day visit to Burma on February 19. This was his second trip to Burma since he assumed office in May 2008. He first visited Burma in August 2008.

Quintana was scheduled to visit Arakan and Kachin States where local opposition complain of repeated harassment by the authorities. People of Arakan hoped to meet the UN envoy and they would have apprised him of the difficulties they have been facing in Arakan. But the wish was not fulfilled as the UN envoy was not allowed to come to Arakan State. Local authorities had selected local villagers to meet the UN envoy, to provide pro-government statements, said a businessman who declined to be named.

A schoolteacher said that the Burmese ruling military had earlier also released prisoners after or before a UN envoys visited Burma to save face.

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