The US Congressional Research Service (CRS) has said Myanmar’s state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD)-led government “have failed to fulfill” its promise not to “arrest anyone as political prisoners”, according to a report dated Sept 24.
That promise was made during the NLD party’s 2015 election campaign but the CRS said “while presidential pardons have been granted for some political prisoners, people continue to be arrested, tried, and imprisoned for alleged violations of [Myanmar] law, some dating back to British colonial rule.”
The report notes the arrest of Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone, two Reuters reporters who were charged under the 1923 Official Secrets Act for allegedly being in possession of “secret documents” given to them by a police officer.
The CRS said that “despite evidence that the documents had been given to the reporters as part of a police sting operation… the judge sentenced them to seven years in prison.”
Another example mentioned by CRS concerned Aung Ko Htwe, who was sentenced to two years in prison with hard labor on March 28 this year, following his August 2017 interview with Radio Free Asia in which he said he had been forced by the Myanmar army to become a child soldier.
While acknowledging that the number of political prisoners had declined sharply after the NLD-government assumed office in April 2016, the CRS, quoted the advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), or AAPP as saying there were 275 political prisoners in Myanmar as of the end of July this year.
Among the many problematic laws Myanmar has today, the CRS listed the 1908 Unlawful Associations Act, the 2013 Telecommunications Law, and the Right to Peaceful Procession Act, which was promulgated in 2011 and amended in 2016.
The Congressional Research Service suggested that the US should provide “technical and other forms of assistance” to Myanmar authorities “in identifying and revising those laws that have been used or could be used to arrest and prosecute people for political reasons.”