Skip to main content

Myanmar frees more political prisoners

From the CNN Wire Staff
July 3, 2012 -- Updated 0947 GMT (1747 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Suu Kyi disputes official request that she stop using the word "Burma"
  • NEW: A rights group has so far reached 24 political detainees who have been freed
  • The authorities don't specify how many of 46 prisoners being released are political
  • "The release is confirmed, and it has started," a prisoner rights group official says

Bangkok, Thailand (CNN) -- A prisoner release announced Tuesday by Myanmar authorities includes at least 24 political detainees, a prisoner rights group said.

The government planned to release 46 prisoners Tuesday in order to "help national reconciliation," the state-run newspaper New Light of Myanmar reported. The government doesn't distinguish between political and non-political detainees.

But Bo Kyi, joint secretary of Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), said that his organization had so far managed to reach a total of 24 political prisoners who had been freed. "The release is confirmed, and it has started," he said.

AAPP is a nonprofit organization that gathers information on political prisoners and their conditions in Myanmar, as well as providing assistance to the prisoners and their families. It estimates that about 400 people in Myanmar remain in detention for political reasons.

Suu Kyi emotional journey leaving family
Suu Kyi's emergence as a global icon
Suu Kyi's 'ambitious' plan for Myanmar
Sectarian violence testing Myanmar

The government of President Thein Sein has released hundreds of political prisoners in the past year, part of a series of political reforms after decades of repressive military rule. Western governments have responded to the efforts by easing sanctions on the country.

The authorities have also engaged in peace talks with rebel ethnic groups and allowed the opposition party of democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi to participate in by-elections for the national parliament in April.

Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, won nearly every seat up for grabs in those elections, and she and other newly elected NLD members have taken up their seats in parliament.

Suu Kyi, who spent years under house arrest in Myanmar, last month made her first visit to Europe in 24 years, finally giving the acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991 and addressing the British parliament.

Despite the recent progress in Myanmar, concerns remain over whether the military establishment, which maintains overwhelming control of parliament, is committed to deep and lasting political change.

In a recent example of the gulf in attitudes toward freedom of speech in Myanmar, the country's election commission published a statement in New Light of Myanmar last week telling Suu Kyi and the NLD to stop referring to the country as Burma.

The name Burma is derived from the country's majority ethnic group, the Burman. It was officially used during and after British colonial rule, until the military junta renamed the country Myanmar in 1989. Like Suu Kyi, many citizens still refer to the country as Burma, as do the British and U.S. governments.

Citing the use of the word Myanmar in the country's constitution, the election commission said "no one has the right" to call it Burma.

But Suu Kyi on Tuesday disputed the commission's assertion.

"This is a democratic country I can say what i want to say," she said in her first news conference since her return from Europe.

Suu Kyi noted that there was no clause or section in the constitution forbidding people from saying Burma.

CNN's Jethro Mullen contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
June 15, 2012 -- Updated 1213 GMT (2013 HKT)
Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has spent much of the last 20 years under house arrest.
Aung San Suu Kyi's rise to Myanmar's parliament caps a remarkable turn around for the pro-democracy campaigner, who was kept under house arrest for 15 years.
June 2, 2012 -- Updated 1858 GMT (0258 HKT)
Aung Sun Suu Kyi tells WEF delegates in Thailand some healthy skepticism is needed when it comes to the country's recent reforms.
May 31, 2012 -- Updated 0028 GMT (0828 HKT)
By the time we arrived, a couple of hours before Suu Kyi was due, the streets were already thick with thousands of Burmese waiting to see her.
April 2, 2012 -- Updated 0845 GMT (1645 HKT)
Two years ago, Myanmar's leaders were doing all they could to silence Aung San Suu Kyi. Now they're poised to welcome her into parliament.
From a bloodless coup in 1962 to Aung San Suu Kyi's win in 2012 elections, explore CNN's timeline of recent events in Myanmar.
April 13, 2012 -- Updated 2256 GMT (0656 HKT)
British Prime Minister David Cameron became the first western leader in decades to visit Myanmar, where he met pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
April 23, 2012 -- Updated 0923 GMT (1723 HKT)
Will the easing of sanctions lead to Myanmar's economic renewal? CNN's Paula Hancocks reports.
April 1, 2012 -- Updated 0824 GMT (1624 HKT)
If Sunday's by-election in Myanmar is deemed to be free and fair, it will cap off a startling about-turn by the former military men currently running the country.
March 29, 2012 -- Updated 1816 GMT (0216 HKT)
Five years after a brutal crackdown in Myanmar, CNN's Paula Hancocks asks monks if they trust the current changes.
March 31, 2012 -- Updated 2323 GMT (0723 HKT)
Paula Hancocks describes the rush to do business in Myanmar, as the country transforms it's economy.
December 6, 2011 -- Updated 0643 GMT (1443 HKT)
While Hillary Clinton's historic visit to Myanmar might well unnerve China, analysts believe the relationship between the two Asian neighbors remains strong.
ADVERTISEMENT