By WAI MOE
The Irrawaddy News
Burma’s state-run newspapers rejected the use of the term “political prisoners” to describe imprisoned dissidents, saying in a series of articles published ahead of
Thursday’s commemoration of the United Nations’ Declaration on Prisoners of Conscience that detained activists were actually guilty of criminal offenses.
From July 22 to 24, The Mirror and Myanma Alin, two of the ruling junta’s mouthpieces, ran a three-part article, “Political Cases, Political Prisoners and the Definition of Burmese Law,” which addressed the question of whether there are any political prisoners in Burma.
Referring to Article 5 (j) of the State Emergency Act and Article 124 (a) of the State Offence Act, which are often used by the authorities to charge and imprison political dissidents, the newspapers claimed that since Burmese law does not use the term “political prisoner,” they cannot possibly exist in Burmese prisons.
The newspapers argued that the Articles 1-8 of the State Emergency Act, which has been in effect since 1950, cover a wide range of issues, including security, administration, communications, taxation and the economy, but do not relate to political affairs.
Article 5 (j) of the State Emergency Act serves to deter acts that threaten the security of the state, law and order, and public morality, The Mirror and Myanma Alin said.
They also noted that under the Election Law for the People’s Assembly No. 11, promulgated in 1989, elected persons can lose their right to represent their constituencies if they break any military decree related to law and order.
“Although the laws do not use the term ‘political prisoners,’ political activists are charged because of their political work,” Aung Thein, a lawyer for several political detainees, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the United States’ representative to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, T. Vance McMahan, is scheduled to moderate a panel discussion at the United Nations headquarters in New York to underscore commitments made in the Declaration on Prisoners of Conscience.
The UN General Assembly issued the Declaration on Prisoners of Conscience on June 11 with the support of 64 nations, including the US and 27 European Union members.
A Burmese human rights group in exile, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP) welcomed the declaration on July 22.
“[The] AAPP wholeheartedly welcomes the commitment of these 64 nations and
encourages all other nations—especially the Burmese military regime, which is holding over 2,000 political prisoners—to reaffirm their commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to adopt the Declaration on Prisoners of Conscience,” the group said in a statement.