Will the President of Myanmar Keep His Promise?

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A group of protesters call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests in Yangon on January 5, 2013. Thousands joined a rally in Myanmar's main city to call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests. (Photo Credit: Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images)

A group of protesters call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests in Yangon on January 5, 2013. Thousands joined a rally in Myanmar’s main city to call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests (Photo Credit: Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images).

The veneer of progress is wearing thin in Myanmar. A year ago, the President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, promised to release all prisoners of conscience. Earlier this year, to mark Myanmar’s Independence Day, the President ordered the release of thousands of prisoners. Now one year on from the promise to release all prisoners of conscience, the promise remains unfulfilled. Even more troubling is the fact that the government is arresting more prisoners of conscience.

The Burma Code is a hornet's nest of vaguely written laws that can be used to suppress and punish the internationally recognized right to freedom of expression.

The shine of recent progress – a reduction in sentence for prisoner of conscience Dr. Tung Aung and the release of prisoners of conscience Zaw Pe and Win Myint Hlaing – has been tarnished by the 10-year sentences handed down three weeks ago against journalists.

Reporters and editors Lu Maw Naing, Yarzar Oo, Paing Thet Kyaw, Sithu Soe, along with the chief executive of the Unity Journal newspaper Tint San were convicted of violating the Official Secrets Act for publishing allegations of a chemical weapons factory in the Magwe region of Myanmar.

This case is emblematic of the failure to institute the reform since Myanmar rewrote its constitution and held parliamentary elections in 2010. The Burma Code is a hornet’s nest of vaguely written laws that can be used to suppress and punish the internationally recognized right to freedom of expression. Until these laws are rewritten in a way that cannot be interpreted objectively or in accordance with the whims of the day, Myanmar will not be able to move forward.

Join Amnesty International here in asking the President of Myanmar to keep his promise from one year ago and release all prisoners of conscience.

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