300 political prisoners still held: activists

Zarli Myint Oo

A monthly report by the Assistant Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said that approximately 300 political prisoners were still detained in prison in February.

According to the report, 92 political arrests were made in February of whom 90 were from ethnic minorities. There were 36 farmers held, the NGO said. One detainee was arrested under Telecommunications Law Section 66(d) and one was detained under Peaceful Demonstration Act Section 19.

The report said 25 Letpadaungtaung residents were prosecuted for blocking a road to the controversial Chinese-owned Sagaing Region copper mine.

The AAPP urged the government to release the farmers and pay compensation.

According to the report, the Defamation Act, Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law and Section 500 of the Penal Code were regularly used to prosecute activists and ban free expression.

AAPP secretary Take Naing said: “The widely used section is 66(d). We urge it to be re-considered for the sake of national reconciliation.”

Any citizen can use Section 66(d) to sue for alleged online abuse, regardless of whether they were the subject of the remarks. It carries a threat of up to three years in prison and suspects are normally refused bail, which is deeply controversial for alleged defamation, meaning it is often used to jail journalists and political activists during prolonged trials.

Suspected membership of rebel armies was used as a reason to arrest ethnic minorities, the report said.

The AAPP prepares monthly statistics based on a definition of "political prisoner" agreed on August 2014.