Friday, August 26, 2011

Opposition MPs in Burma move to release ‘prisoners of conscience’

Friday, 26 August 2011 11:56 Myo Thant

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – A member of Parliament took a new semantic approach on Thursday in a motion asking the Burmese government to release all political prisoners.

Lower House MP Thein Nyunt made a motion to release all  “prisoners of conscience” instead. For decades, Burma’s governments have denied the existence of political prisoners, saying such prisoners were convicted under existing laws and regulations.

MP Thein Nyunt in a file photograph Photo: Mizzima
“Since the government refuses to acknowledge the existence of political prisoners, we had to use ‘prisoners of conscience’ to make the motion eligible in Parliament,” said Lower House MP Khain Khin Maung Yee.

Thein Nyunt made a similar motion in the first session of Parliament in March, but it was rejected because news of the motion had leaked to the media before being moved in Parliament, which violated the body’s rules.

“All of those who worked for change in the country are political prisoners. But they [the government] claim there are no political prisoners in the country. The cases charged the prisoners with the Unlawful Associations Act, high treason, sedition and the 1975 Law for Safeguarding the Nation from the Danger of Subversive Elements. They are regarded as political offenses in the country.

"I believe all of these people are being detained or imprisoned for their political conscience and in the view of State Security they are political prisoners,” Thein Nyunt told Mizzima.

A recent presidential order that commuted all prison sentences by one year issued in May 2011 was not sufficient, Thein Nyunt told lawmakers while introducing his motion.

In a second motion on Thursday, Thein Nyunt moved that the Lower House deliberate the creation of a “Prison Bill for the 21st Century,” which would guarantee human dignity to all prisoners. The motion will be deliberated on Friday.

A motion by Thein Nyunt on Wednesday to repeal the Contempt of Court Act was rejected by lawmakers on Thursday.

MPs raised the following questions in the Lower House on Thursday:

––MP Thein Nyunt asked whether the government had a plan to resume the blaring of sirens on Martyrs’ Day. Information Minister Kyaw Hsan answered that the authorities could not resume the practice since there were so many motor vehicles on the roads and highways now.

––Rangoon Region Insein constituency MP Aye Myint raised a question whether the government had a plan to increase the prize money in the National Literary Award. Information Minister Kyaw Hsan said that the government had no plan to increase the awards, and it had already increased the prize money to 800,000 kyat (US$ 1,111) from 600,000 kyat (US$ 833).

––Kunhing constituency MP Nan War Nu asked about the government’s plan to bring about ethnic unity and peace. Information Minister Kyaw Hsan replied that a Peace Committee and been formed and talks were underway.

––MP Soe Win asked about the government taking action against brothels. Union Minister Ko Ko said the government had taken actions in 2,952 cases related to sex workers and 1,591 cases of women working in karaoke bars.

In Upper House business on Thursday, a motion by MP Dr. Mya Oo on Wednesday to improve rural healthcare was accepted on Thursday, and it will be deliberated in a joint session of Parliament.

––MP Saw Tun Myint Aung raised a question on whether the government had a plan to reopen Hpapun Airport. Construction Minister Khin Maung Myint replied that currently there was no such plan because of security reasons.

Parliament sessions started on Thursday at 10 a.m. The Lower House concluded at 2 p.m.; the Upper House concluded at 4 p.m.

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