Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Burmese politicians tell Quintana to work for release of political prisoners

Tuesday, 23 August 2011 10:09 Ko Wild

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Burmese human rights activists and opposition political party leaders urged visiting UN human rights special rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana to focus on the issue of releasing all political prisoners in Burma.

In a file picture taken in 2010, UN human rights
envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana talks to the press
at Rangoon International Airport. Quintana has
returned to Burma for a five-day visit.
Photo: AFP
“I have many friends who are imprisoned for their political conscience. The release of these prisoners is our daily hope,” Chin National Party (CNP) chairman Zo Zam told Mizzima. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma (AAPP-B) said that there are 1,995 political prisoners in Burma.

Quintana’s five-day visit kicked off on Sunday. He will meet with a wide range of high-level government officials, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and senior leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party during his visit. He will also visit and observe the ongoing Parliament session in Naypyitaw.

He met with  Union Chief Justice Tun Tun Oo, Union Attorney General Dr. Tun Shin, Labour Social Welfare and Resettlement Minister Aung Kyi on Monday morning and Defence Minister Major General Hla Min and presidential advisers in the evening. He also met Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, Myanmar Human Right Commission chairman and Deputy Minister for Home Affairs Lieutenant General Ko Ko, and Deputy Chief of Police Force Police Brigadier General Zaw Win on behalf of the Police Chief on Sunday.

Qunitana has visited Burma three times since 2008. He was barred from visiting for nearly one and half years after he asked the UN Commission for Human Rights to investigate alleged war crimes and human rights violations committed by the previous military regime. He was allowed to meet with Suu Kyi on his fourth visit.

The Thailand-based Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB) Director Aung Myo Min said: “He should study the political prisoners issue and what’s happening in Shan, Kachin and other states rather than superficial and cosmetic changes in the country.” Fighting between government troops and ethnic armed forces has broken out in Kachin and Shan states amid charges of further human rights abuses.

The Shan Nationalities Development Party (SNDP) finance department chief Saw Than Myint said he would meet with Quintana on Thursday.

National Democratic Force (NDF) party political chief Khin Maung Swe said that he saw Quintana as an envoy who will focus on important tasks.

“We must call for releasing all political prisoners as an important demand. We will talk about this issue,” he said.

National League for Democracy (NLD) party spokesman Nyan Win told the Voice of America (VOA) Burmese Service on Sunday that he believed the new government was ready for changes and meetings between officials and Quintana seemed to indicate a gradual policy change.

Quintana will hold a press conference on Thursday and submit a report to the UN General Assembly at the end of the year.

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