Burma formed a committee Wednesday to look atthe remaining political prisoners serving their terms in prisons throughout the country so as to grant them liberty, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported this week.

Government of Burma has been granting amnesty to prisoners of conscience serving their terms in prisons across the nation, though some remain incarcerated.

According to the NLM, the committee is to be chaired by Union Minister at the President Office U Soe Thane and will include representatives from government ministries, civil society organisations and some political parties.

Family members of Burma prisoners wait outside Insein Prison in Yangon Oct. 12, 2011 following an announcement that more than 6,300 inmates would be released. Unfortunately, very few of those were political prisoners. Pic: AP.

The committee will define the meaning of prisoners of conscience and coordinate a framework for releasing the remaining political prisoners and report the findings to the President.

Taik Naing (General-Secretary) and Bo Kyi (Joint-Secretary) of Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), based in Thailand, traveled to Yangon last month to cooperate with other organizations and political parties to work towards the release of the remaining political prisoners as well as their rehabilitation, according to media reports.

Before the trip, Bo Kyi said AAPP’s purpose remains the freedom of political prisoners and an end to repressive laws. Although the President Thein Sein government released several political prisoners, he said, there are as many as 200 left behind bars.

According to AAPP, “Torture in Burma’s interrogation centres and prisons is brutal and systematic. Political prisoners are subject to extreme physical assaults resulting in internal bleeding and unconsciousness. In Burma, torture is not limited to physical assaults, but extends to the authorities maintenance of general prison conditions and the ineptness of the prison health care system. Prison authorities routinely and deliberately aggravate prison conditions and deny medical care to political prisoners, causing a level of suffering that amounts to torture.”
(Eight seconds of silence, The Death of Democracy Activists behind Bars, AAPP, May 2006.)

AAPP has documented numerous cases of torture of political prisoners occurred since 1988.  The organization warns that this work is by no means finished, as most former political prisoners remain inside Burma, unable to speak about their torture for fear of repercussions.

According to AAPP, “political prisoners are deprived of food, water, sleep, light, and use of the toilet during interrogation and punishment. […] Political prisoners are punched, kicked, slapped, kneed, and beaten with a variety of [instruments], including rubber or wooden batons, truncheons, rifle butts, rubber cords, bamboo sticks and plastic pipes.”

AAPP describes various positions in which prisoners are placed, “In one form, a political prisoner is strung up by their feet and then spun around repeatedly. Another form is when a prisoner is made to assume the position of an ‘airplane.’ […] In some cases, the prisoners’ faces are covered with cloth as water is poured over them making it impossible to breath. […] Electric shocks have been administered to political prisoners, and are generally applied to the most sensitive parts of a person’s body, including the genitals.” AAPP reported that the use of psychological torture has increased over the years in Burma.
(The Darkness We See, Torture in Burma’s Interrogation Centers and Prisons, AAPP, December 2005.)

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) is a human rights organization based in Mae Sot, Thailand that works for the release of all political prisoners and for the improvement of prison conditions inside Burma. Set up in 2000, AAPP is entirely run by former political prisoners.

It carries out a range of activities on behalf of Burma’s political prisoners. AAPP is widely recognized as a reliable and credible source of information on political prisoner issues in Burma, by the United Nations, governments, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and respected media outlets around the world.