Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Weekly Highlights: On U Win Tin Blue Shirt Day, Remember Burma’s Many Political Prisoners


6 - 19 April 2015

Weekly Highlights

On U Win Tin Blue Shirt Day, Remember Burma's Many Political Prisoners

Today, Tuesday 21 April 2015, is the first anniversary of the death of U Win Tin – journalist, democracy activist, founding member of the National League of Democracy (NLD), and one of Burma's most high profile and respected political prisoners who spent over 19 years in prison.  When he was eventually released in 2008, he refused to hand back his blue prison shirt, and vowed to wear a blue shirt every day until all political prisoners were released, saying: "If there are no political prisoners … I will take off my shirt, but up until now I haven't seen good indications."  Sadly, despite the many promises made by President Thein Sein to release all political prisoners, U Win Tin continued wearing a blue shirt until the day he died, one year ago.

In fact, the number of political prisoners has increased markedly over the last year.  According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, as at the end of March 2015, 173 political prisoners remained incarcerated in Burma, with a further 316 activists awaiting trial for conducting political activities.  Furthermore, students, garment workers, farmers and journalists have all borne the brunt of the state's repression.  In March alone, 92 people were charged for their civil and political rights activities, with 31 arrested and seven sentenced, mostly as a result of the well-documented student protests in Letpadan and Rangoon in early March.

As a result, 17 civil society organizations have called upon people worldwide to "honour the memory of U Win Tin by raising awareness and taking action for the release of political prisoners still in jail.  Please wear a blue shirt or blue clothing, post pictures of yourself wearing blue on social media, and let people know that there are still political prisoners in jail, and that they need our support."

The continued detention of these students, political activists and others is a breach of several of their most sacrosanct human rights.  The fundamental rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression, not to mention the right to liberty, the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, and the right not to be arbitrarily arrested or detained, are all protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Arbitrary detention, however, is thankfully receiving increased attention at a global level: the UN Human Rights Council has requested that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention develop Basic Principles and Guidelines on remedies and procedures on the right of anyone deprived of their liberty to bring proceedings before a court.  These Basic Principles and Guidelines will be approved in the Working Group's upcoming 72nd session running from 20-29 April in Geneva, and it is hoped that they will assist UN Member States to establish effective mechanisms to ensure judicial oversight over all instances of the arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

And yet such global initiatives mean little without political will on the ground.  It is therefore vital that everyone – both in Burma and around the world – creates as much pressure for the Burma Government as possible, in the hope that it will stop abusing human rights, halt the enactment of repressive legislation, and start establishing independent institutions that respect human rights.  The best way to do that, the best way of providing immediate and direct assistance to those political prisoners who, like U Win Tin before them, suffer deprivations, cruelties and human rights violations on a daily basis, is to raise awareness of Burma's political prisoners and their plight.

Therefore, on Tuesday 21 April, please wear a #blueshirt4burma for Burma's political prisoners and share your photo on social media sites!


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TAKE ACTION!  Honour the memory of U Win Tin, journalist, democracy activist, founding member of the NLD, and one of Burma's most high profile and respected political prisoners by raising awareness and taking action for the release of political prisoners still in jail. Wear a blue shirt or blue clothing and post pictures of yourself on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Let people know that there are still political prisoners in jail in Burma, and that they need our support.

TAKE ACTION! Write to Burma's authorities calling for the immediate release of political activist Ko Wai Lu who has received a one-year prison sentence for providing support to peaceful protesters calling on the authorities to resolve land disputes.

TAKE ACTION! In November 2012, police in Burma violated international law by firing incendiary white phosphorous munitions at peaceful demonstrators at the Letpadaung mine near Monywa. The order for this attack and the recent violent crackdown on the students protesting against the National Education Law in Letpadan and Rangoon came from General Ko Ko. Sign your name to show support in adding General Ko Ko to the US sanctions list.

Statements and Press Releases

Call for Support – U Win Tin Blue Shirt Day for political prisoners in Burma/Myanmar on April 21st 2015
By 17 Civil Society Organization

Burma/Myanmar's Prisoners of Conscience Affairs Committee Needs Urgent Reform
By 23 Civil Society Organizations

Statement of Detained Students
By Detained Students

Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement Unlikely in April
By Ethnic Nationalities Affairs Center

Statement: Asean Needs to Adress Rising Intolerance in Myanmar
By Humaniti

Statement by Local People of Mong Ton Township, Shan State
By Local People of Mong Ton Township

Mong Ton Villagers Protest Against Salween Dam at Consultation Meeting
By Shan Human Rights Foundation

Position Statement on Signing of Approval on Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement Draft Reached between NCCT and UPWC
By United Nationalities Federal Council


Political Reform and Ethnic Peace in Burma/Myanmar: The Need for Clarity and Achievement
By Transnational Institute

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