No activities since formation of new political prisoners panel

Since its formation for about a month, the Committee for Prisoners of Conscience Affairs has not yet called any meetings or adopted any work programmes.

The Presidential Office renamed the Committee for Scrutinising the Remaining Prisoners of Conscience to “Committee for Prisoners of Conscience Affairs" on January 5 in order to handle well the affairs of political prisoners.

"So far, nobody has informed us. We only knew that our former committee for scrutinising the remaining political prisoners was renamed. But we didn't know the reason. We knew nothing about it," said a committee member Sai Nyunt Lwin from the Shan Nationality League for Democracy.

In the old 19-member committee, Soe Thein, Union minister for the Presidential Office, served as chairman; Aung Thein, deputy minister for the Presidential Office, served as secretary; and officials from the Correction Department, Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, political parties, civil society organisations and associations for political prisoners were also included as members. In one and a half years of its formation, the committee held 14 meetings.

The new committee is chaired by Deputy Home Affairs Minister Brigadier General Kyaw Kyaw Tun and includes some members of the old committee. Some officials from the Presidential Office were excluded. It includes 16 people from political parties, eight government officials, U Hla Maung Shwe from Myanmar Egress, U Sit Myaing, deputy chairman of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, U Ko Ko Gyi from the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, and U Ye Aung from the Former Political Prisoners Society.

In early January, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners announced that Myanmar still has 164 political prisoners in prisons across the country. And 203 political activists are also facing charges, it said.