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Release of Political Prisoners in Burma is Positive Step

New U.S. ambassador should push for more changes

January 2012

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) welcomes the Government of Burma’s release of political prisoners. On Thursday more than 650 prisoners were released, including high-profile prisoners such as pro-democracy leaders Min Ko Naing and Ko Ko Gyi and Saffron Revolution leader U Gambira, according to estimates from PHR’s partner organizations. Releasing hundreds of political prisoner is a significant step forward for Burma, whose leaders have for decades responded to political activism with harsh prison sentences.  

In response, the Obama Administration announced today its intention to send an ambassador to Burma. The announced exchange of ambassadors should not be merely an award to the Government of Burma—it must be an instrument through which the U.S. can listen to local voices and push for more significant progress.

 A U.S. ambassador should push for additional and significant changes that must take place in Burma. The Government should:

  • Adhere to the rule of law to ensure that those released from prison will not be re-arrested solely on the basis of their political activism.
  •  Build upon this momentum of reform and ensure that positive changes reach all corners of the country. In Kachin State, for example, tens of thousands of internally-displaced people remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
  • Immediately allow humanitarian aid organizations unfettered access to those in need.
  • Cease all hostilities against ethnic groups and ensure that any ceasefire is fair, transparent, and sustainable.

The U.S. and the rest of the international community should carefully monitor the actions of Burma’s government to ensure that reforms are sustainable and continued.

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