P.O.C’s release signals a step forward to ending arbitrary arrests

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Aye Min Soe

ONE day after newly minted State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s pledge to release those who were detained on charges related to politics and political activism scores of prisoners of conscience including student protesters were released under presidential pardon.
Remaining prisoners of conscience will be released once the process of dropping their charges is completed at court when the courts re-open after the Myanmar new year holidays, according to the statement issued by the State Counsellor’s Office on 8 April.
The move, which saw the new government use the president’s pardoning power for the first time, has sent a strong message to the public regarding the NLD government’s intention to end the cycle of arbitrary arrests in Myanmar.
The release of prisoners of conscience is merely the first step. To end arbitrary arrests, the NLD government must get to the the root causes of arrests.
To do this, repealing and amending the country’s legal framework, which has caused friction between the authorities and activists, will be one of the top priorities of the new government.
Meanwhile, some issues, which have brought human rights defenders and activists to the streets and caused conflicts, should be settled as soon as possible.
If not, politically active citizens will remain at risk of arbitrary arrest for expressing their opinions.
To break the cycle of political arrests, the new government must prioritise the amending of the nation’s laws used to clamp down on dissent to ensure that speaking out is no longer a crime.

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