No political amnesty as Burma cuts prison terms

Burma’s President Thein Sein has commuted death sentences to life in prison and cut the terms to be served by other prisoners in a gesture to mark Independence Day, state media said on Monday, but it appeared no political prisoners would be freed.

The nominally civilian government that took office in Burma last March has begun to implement gradual political and economic reforms. In October, it released around 230 political prisoners jailed by the former junta.

Several hundred are still thought to be behind bars and some observers had suggested there could be an amnesty early in the New Year.

Independence Day falls on January 4, marking the day when the country gained independence from British colonial rule in 1948.

Western governments that are keen to nurture the changes in Burma want to see political prisoners released before they will fully lift economic sanctions imposed during the period of military rule.

State-owned MRTV-4 said the president had signed an order to commute death sentences and reduce prison terms. For example, prisoners with more than 30 years to serve would now have to serve “up to 30 years” and those facing 20 to 30 years would now have up to 20 years in jail.

Many political prisoners, including Min Ko Naing, a prominent leader of a 1988 pro-democracy uprising, and colleagues have sentences with far longer than 30 years to run.

“We didn’t see the announcement ourselves but so far as we have heard from friends, we don’t think he will be freed under this,” said Min Ko Naing’s father.

A senior prison official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said: “So far as I understand from the announcement, those sentenced to over 60 years cannot be expected to be freed under this amnesty.”

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

2019: The ones who left us

From Uyinene Mrwetyana, Oliver Mtukudzi to Xolani Gwala, Mail & Guardian remembers those who have passed on

Aung San Suu Kyi at the ICJ: when the personal is political

Myanmar’s leader personally faces allegations while avoiding the task of changing the country’s trajectory

More battles ahead for domestic worker unions

Florence Sosiba, speaks to the Mail & Guardian about how important domestic workers are and exclusion in the COIDA

“Life has been good to me, considering where I come from” – Xolani Gwala

Just over a year ago, veteran radio presenter Xolani Gwala’s cancer was in remission. He spoke to the Mail & Guardian once he was back on air.

Kanya Cekeshe’s lawyer appeals decision not to grant him bail to the high court

Kanya Cekeshe’s legal team filed an urgent appeal at the Johannesburg high court on Tuesday against Monday’s judgment by magistrate Theunis Carstens.

Leader’s principal aim to build IFP

Gravitas: Velenkosini Hlabisa brings his experience to his new post as leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Vitamin therapy is for drips

It may be marketed by influencers, but intravenous vitamin therapy is not necessary and probably not worth the hype, experts say

Facebook, Instagram indiscriminately flag #EndSars posts as fake news

Fact-checking is appropriate but the platforms’ scattershot approach has resulted in genuine information and messages about Nigerians’ protest against police brutality being silenced

Murder of anti-mining activist emboldens KZN community

Mam’Ntshangase was described as a fierce critic of mining and ambassador for land rights.

Unite with Nigeria’s ‘Speak Up’ generation protesting against police brutality

Photos of citizens draped in the bloodied flag have spread around the world in the month the country should be celebrating 60 years of independence

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday