YANGON — A senior US representative has urged the Myanmar government to release all remaining political prisoners, and those awaiting trial for political reasons, before the end of President U Thein Sein’s term at the end of March.
During a visit to the country, Deputy Secretary of State Mr. Antony Blinken met with senior government representatives, including military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, to discuss the transfer of power after the NLD won a landslide victory in November’s general election.
Mr. Blinken, the first senior US official to visit Myanmar after the election, congratulated officials for the successful process, but called on the government to release all political prisoners and expressed “strong concern about discrimination and violence experienced by ethnic and religious minority groups, including the Rohingya population in Rakhine State.”
“One of the hallmarks of the reform process is that 1,300 or more political prisoners were released,” he said of Myanmar’s reform process, which began in 2011. “But political prisoners remain and others are in the process of being prosecuted.”
“It would be a fitting completion of that legacy to release all political prisoners so that by the time transition is complete and the new government takes office, no one is in prison for their political views,” he said.
Although President Thein Sein has conducted several prisoner releases during his term, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, there were 127 political prisoners languishing in jail and 472 facing trial as of December 12, 2015.
Mr Blinken also expressed concern about the ongoing violence between the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups, as well as religious violence and policies that discriminate minority groups, particularly the Rohingya.
“The solution is the rule of law equally applied to all. An equal chance for everyone to participate in the democratic life of the country,” he said.