Friday, September 18, 2009

Burma jail numbers up - rights group


BURMA’S MILITARY regime has doubled the number of political prisoners in the past two years, and elections next year will have no credibility unless they are freed, Human Rights Watch said in a report.
Buddhist monks, journalists and artists are among more than 2,200 people held at more than 40 prisons or forced to perform hard labour at about 50 camps in Burma, the New York-based group said.
The elections “will be a sham”if political opponents remain in jail, Tom Malinowski, the group’s advocacy director in Washington, said yesterday. The US, China, India and Southeast Asian countries “should make the release of all political prisoners a central goal of their engagement with Burma”.
The junta, the latest in a line of generals to rule Burma since 1962, triggered international condemnation last month when it extended opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest order for 18 months.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner has spent more than 13 years in custody since her National League for Democracy won elections in 1990, a result rejected by the regime.
Repression increased in the country after an uprising led by Buddhist monks two years ago was crushed by the government, Human Rights Watch said.
More than 300 political and labour activists, monks, artists, comedians, journalists and internet bloggers have been sentenced to jail after trials in closed courts, the group said. Some prison terms have been for more than 100 years.
More than 20 activists, including the country’s most-famous comedian, Zargana, were arrested for speaking out about obstacles to humanitarian relief following Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma in May 2008 leaving at least 138,000 people dead or missing, according to the report


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