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The government-backed committee charged with verifying the remaining political prisoners in Burma has vetted 155 political prisoners and forwarded the list to President Thein Sein for review.
According to Aung Myo Thein of Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP-B), the committee evaluated the 155 prisoners’ cases during a meeting on 16 June and forwarded the names to the president’s office.
A separate list containing the names of 79 Kachin prisoners was also sent to Thein Sein’s office by AAPP-B.
During a radio address earlier this month, President Thein Sein said he did not want any prisoners of conscience to remain incarcerated in Burma, but added that individuals who were found guilty of committing violent crimes for political reasons should serve their sentences.
“We are taking time to investigate cases that confuse criminal offences and political offences,” said President Thein Sein, according to a report in the AFP.
However, it remains to be seen if the government will follow the recommendations issued by the verification committee.
Since its formation in February, members of the group have criticised the review process for its lack of transparency and accused the government of ignoring their input. Although Thein Sein is due to review the committee’s list in the coming weeks, some members suspect that the government has already determined who they are planning to release.
The president has received acclaim for releasing hundreds of political prisoners since coming to office more than two years ago, but activists have accused Thein Sein of using the inmates as pawns in an ongoing public relations campaign to please western governments.
According to statistics compiled by the Former Political Prisoners Association, 80 political prisoners have been released since the verification committee was formed.