Myanmar MPs propose prisoner amnesty

The plight of around 2,000 political prisoners is a key concern of the international community.

Yangon: Members of Myanmar`s Army-dominated Parliament have called for a sweeping jail amnesty, state media reported Saturday, after a UN envoy called for the release of prisoners of conscience.

A proposal for a general amnesty was raised in the lower house on Friday, the New Light of Myanmar reported.

"They firmly hope that the president would make (an) assessment and release an order of amnesty," the newspaper said, without giving further details on who would be included.

The plight of around 2,000 political prisoners, many of whom are serving double-digit jail terms, is a key concern of the international community, along with other human rights abuses and democratic reforms.

It is the first time that serving military members of parliament have taken part in a discussion of a general amnesty since a nominally civilian government took over in March. A quarter of seats are reserved for the Army.

The regime, which came to power after controversial November elections, appears keen to improve its image and recently held the first talks between democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and President Thein Sein, a former general.

But the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Tomas Ojea Quintana, said serious concerns remained as he concluded a visit to the country on Thursday.

The UN envoy, who visited Yangon`s notorious Insein jail during his five day trip, voiced fears over allegations of torture during detention and the use of prisoners as porters for the military.

"Of key concern to me and the international community is the continuing detention of a large number of prisoners of conscience," Quintana said.

In a move that rights groups said was woefully insufficient, Myanmar reduced all current jail sentences by one year in May and commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment.

Amnesty International said that political detainees are imprisoned using vague laws that criminalise peaceful political activists. They are held in poor conditions and moved to jails far from their homes and families.

Opposition leader Suu Kyi was freed from seven years of house arrest in November shortly after the election, Myanmar`s first in 20 years.

Quintana, who also held talks with the Nobel laureate last week, urged Myanmar`s parliamentarians, many of whom shed military uniforms to contest the election, to hold "open and inclusive debates on issues of national importance".

Bureau Report