Monday, August 4, 2008

New appeal over 8888 uprising Burma prisoners

More than 2,000 political prisoners are still languishing in Burmese jails, almost 20 years after pro-democracy protests were crushed by the country's army.

Today the United Nations is being urged to reject Burma's "hollow promises" and press for the release of all those still detained.

Amnesty International UK's plea comes ahead of an official visit by the UN secretary general's special representative Ibrahim Gambari and Thomas Ojea, the UN expert on human rights in Burma.

Pro-democracy protests began in Burma on August 8th 1988, lending the demonstrations the 8888 uprising tag.

The peaceful protests, which mostly involved students and monks, began in Rangoon and spread through most of the country before being viciously crushed in September.

Up to 3,000 unarmed protests are thought to have died, with about 2,050 still remaining in jail.

Their numbers have been added to by protestors detained or 'disappeared' following the Saffron Revolution marches witnessed last autumn.

Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International UK's Burma researcher, said there were now more political prisoners in Burma than at any time since the 8888 uprising.

He drew special attention to U Win Tin, now 78, who has been imprisoned since 1989.

"Despite countless claims by the government of Burma that it is moving toward allowing broader political participation, U Win Tin was detained not long after the 1988 demonstrations, and remains in prison along with thousands of others," Mr Zawacki said.

"Nothing speaks louder of the government's poor faith than the fact that there are more long-standing political prisoners in Burma now than at any other time since those protests.

"While U Win Tin is the longest-serving prisoner of conscience in Burma, he is far from alone.

"He has been joined by thousands of others since 1988, roughly 900 in just the past ten months. The UN should no longer accept the government's hollow assurances but hold Burma firmly to its word."

Amnesty International UK is supporting a demonstration outside the Burmese embassy in central London on Friday August 8th between 13:00 BST and 14:00 BST to mark the 20th anniversary of the 8888 uprising.
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