False hope as Burma’s president says exiled citizens can return homeBy Zin Linn Aug 18, 2011 12:07AM UTC
Burmese nationals who escaped the country subsequent to the well-known 1988 people’s uprising are allowed to return to their motherland, President Thein Sein said in a speech today.
Tens of thousands of Burmese who took part in the mass demonstrations and the following armed uprising have lived in exile since 1988, the majority in Thailand and the US. Although there has been no specific ban on their return, no one believes the president’s welcoming words since he failed to release political prisoners in Burma and stop the ongoing war on the ethnic groups.
Thein Sein was quoted by The Voice journal as telling businessmen in Naypyidaw this afternoon that those “who committed a crime” would still be punished. The comments appeared on the journal’s Facebook page, according to Francis Wade of DVB.
There are roughly 2,000 political prisoners who have been under arrest and sentenced for having peacefully articulated their views orally, through partaking in peaceful demonstrations or in activities of political parties. Some of them are punished for having written about human rights or political issues in the country or for reading or possessing written materials judged illegal.
Business tycoon Khin Shwe, who runs the Zaygabar company and was in attendance at the meeting, told DVB that Thein Sein said all “minor offenses would be pardoned”.
In the president’s speech, the key point is for those persons out of the country to return to the motherland and work for the development of the nation.
Although Thein Sein is a president, he did not make a decree or declaration legally for a general amnesty through the state media. In this case, it is not adequate saying informally to return from exile in such a meeting. The concerning people may think his welcoming words as unofficial. Actually, there is no official statement issued by the president office.
In reality, most of the dissident persons and groups in exile are based on the different political opinions. But, according to president’s words, it seems just calling for businessmen and scholars.
He did not mention the political dissidents. So, president’s proposal for homecoming towards the Burmese abroad may be a premeditated scheme. He just calls on businessmen and scholars who agree to work under the 2008 constitution.
Those who return home will inevitably be subjected to a screening process. After arrival in Burma, they have to speak to local administrations in respective townships about their life in exile. That means the government will not guarantee the returnees’ individual freedom. They can put anyone into jail for any reason.
The bresident’s words only welcome persons who will support business development of the country. He did not welcome persons who will support Aung San Suu Kyi or any other opposition parties. His invitation to the Burmese citizens outside the country is just a cosmetic phrase without generosity.
In a word, if the president has sincere purpose, firstly, he should release political prisoners and secondly, declare a nationwide ceasefire to show evidence for meaningful political dialogue with all dissident groups. Thirdly, the president should announce a general amnesty in search of peace, stability and development for a prosperous Burma.