The release of Aung Sang Suu Kyi was an amazing day, but there is a tendency, I think in the west to think that now Burma is ok. If only this were true … but things are progressing! In the last few days many high profile political prisoners have been released in Burma.
Those released includes Ko Mya Aye, father of Wai Hnin, Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK. Ko Mya Aye wanted us to pass on a message to supporters: “I would like to give my best wishes and many thanks to all the supporters of Burma Campaign UK, and people from inside and outside Burma for encouraging us and continuing our movement. This is one of the happiest days of my life to be with my family and continue my activities towards for democratic Burma. Thank you all.”
Wai Hnin is delighted her father has finally been released, speaking with him earlier today. “It was wonderful to hear his voice,” she said. “But typically it didn’t take long for him to start talking about politics, and how we must keep campaigning for the rest of the political prisoners to be freed.”
Ko Ko Gyi, another one of the leaders of the 88 Generation Students who were jailed again for their role in protests in 2007, and released today, told us; “Long ago you could just close the door and be in a dictatorship in one country, but now because of globalisation the role of international community and campaign groups has become very important to help those countries in dictatorship, so I would like to say thank you so much to all campaign groups and international community for their help for Burma.” (Ko Ko Gyi also joked with Wai Hnin about the fundraising bungee jump she did in 2010, which he heard about on the radio while in prison.)
Ethnic Rohingya MP U Kyaw Min, who has been in jail since 2005 and was also released today, also wanted to say thank you to Burma Campaign UK supporters, saying: “I really appreciate your support. Now we must work together to free those left in prison.”
These releases are fantastic news, but there are still many prisoners left in jail, and the laws under which released prisoners were arrested are still in place. We’ll be in touch soon about a new campaign to ensure independent monitors can enter Burma’s jails and assess how many political prisoners still need to be released. You can read our media statement about the releases here.
Ceasefire in Karen State?
In addition to the news on political prisoners, there was another significant development, the agreement in principle of a ceasefire between the military-backed government and the Karen National Union (KNU). For many decades the Burmese Army has been committing horrific human rights abuses against the ethnic Karen of Burma. If the ceasefire does go ahead, and is followed by genuine political dialogue to solve the root causes of the conflict, it will be a very welcome step. However, what has happened is just a first step, there is still a long way to go.
Bwa Bwa Phan, a Karen community representative who used to work and volunteer with Burma Campaign UK, has written an article in Irrawaddy Magazine which explains why many Karen are still cautious. You can read the article here.
Developments in Burma this week show that campaigning does work, and is appreciated by those in Burma struggling for true freedom. We must keep up the pressure to keep making change happen.
You can donate to Burma Campaign UK – if you can please do … you can see from this update how our support is making an incredible difference.