independent

Friday 25 April 2014

Burma pardons 70 political captives

Hugo Swire welcomed the release of political prisoners in Burma

Burma's president has pardoned at least 70 more political prisoners, just days after promising to free all who remain jailed by the end of the year.

The release of political detainees in Burma has been a key concern of the US and other western nations.

Around 200 were believed to be behind bars before the announcement by Ye Aung, a member of the government's political prisoner scrutiny committee. He said at least 70 were released from various prisons.

Activists have accused president Thein Sein's government of only freeing a few political prisoners in small batches, and usually for public relations purposes.

Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire said: "The UK warmly welcomes the Burmese government's release of political prisoners today. This is a further step towards fulfilling the commitment made by Burmese President Thein Sein during his visit to the UK last week to release all remaining prisoners of conscience by the end of this year.

"At the same time we remain concerned by the continued arrests, detentions and sentencing of political activists in Burma, including the most recent arrest of activists associated with civil society organisation Generation Wave. Such actions are not in line with Burma's wider positive reforms.

"We call on the government to ensure that democratic activists are able to voice their opinions freely and without fear of arrest. We urge both the government and the parliament to repeal all existing laws which are not in line with democratic standards.

"The UK remains committed to supporting the democratic transition taking place in Burma. Yesterday, the UK supported the adoption of an EU Comprehensive Framework, which, among other things, sets out plans for an EU-Burma Human Rights dialogue with the Burmese government.

"This will form a key component of the EU's continued commitment to addressing the human rights situation in Burma. We want this to be established quickly."

Press Association

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