Personal Note: Our local AIUSA Group in Santa Cruz (the fifth to be started in the U.S.) has been working for the release of two specific individuals in Burma for years. It has now been confirmed that one of them and possibly the other, have been released as part of this recent government amnesty. – Gabriel
Burma Release, Ceasefire Hailed by Obama, Rights Groups
he administration of U.S. President Barack Obama Friday hailed the release by the Burmese government of hundreds of political prisoners, suggesting that it went far toward satisfying Washington’s conditions for fully normalizing ties between the two countries.
In a statement released by the White House after the first releases were confirmed, Obama called it a “crucial step in Burma’s democratic transformation and national reconciliation process”.
“I have directed Secretary (of State Hillary) Clinton and my Administration to take additional steps to build confidence with the government and people of Burma so that we seize this historic and hopeful opportunity.”
For her part, Clinton, who met last December with President Thein Sein and the country’s most famous dissident, Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, during the first trip by a U.S. secretary of state to Burma in nearly 60 years, called the releases “a substantial and serious step forward in the government’s stated commitment to political reform”.
She added that the administration will soon send an ambassador to Burma, among other measures, to “strengthen and deepen our ties with both the people and the government”.
She also praised a ceasefire agreement reached Thursday between the government and the six-year-old Karen National Union (KNU) insurgency as an “important step forward”.
At the same time, she stressed, as did Obama in his statement, that full normalization will depend on continuing progress on all fronts, “including taking further steps to address the concerns of ethnic minority groups, making sure that there is a free and fair by- election, and making all the releases from prison unconditional, and making sure that all remaining political detainees are also released.”
International human rights group echoed the administration’s praise but also warned against a rush toward normalization, noting that the 651 political prisoners to be freed by the amnesty announced Friday may still leave as many as 1,000 behind bars.
“Today’s release of some of Myanmar’s political prisoners was the result of concerted, sustained pressure by the international community and bold leadership by the United States,” said Suzanne Nussel, executive director of the U.S. chapter of Amnesty International (AIUSA).
“While we welcome the releases, thousands more remain behind bars. Pressure for progress on the remaining prisoners and other human rights concerns in Myanmar must not abate,” she said.
“The risk is that the restoration of ties between the two countries may be premature and could weaken the pressure to address critical areas of unfinished business in addressing serious human rights abuses in Myanmar.”
“The United States has demonstrated that engagement combined with pressure can deliver important breakthroughs, and must sustain both elements of its approach.”
Similarly, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) hailed the release as a “crucial development in promoting respect for human rights in Burma” but called for all remaining political prisoners to be freed “immediately and unconditionally”.
Read entire article at Nation of Change.