Published: 28 April 2011
Locals in Taungdwingyi have been ordered to sign a statement promising they will not put their names to a nascent signature campaign targeted at Burma’s president, Thein Sein.
Private tutors in the Magwe division town were warned on Friday last week that activists would encourage locals there to sign the petition, which urges the release of political prisoners, among other demands.
A member of the National League for Democracy (NLD), a key driving force behind the campaign, said that it was already “achieving some success”.
“The people are very keen to see the release of political prisoners,” he told DVB, requesting anonymity. “The new government… has a responsibility to release these people who worked to contribute to society.”
Activists in Mandalay have begun collecting signatures after 408 “prominent and influential figures” in Rangoon leant their support. Phyo Min Thein, one of the campaign’s organisers, said 450,000 more petitions were sent across Burma on Tuesday. The final tally will be sent to Thein Sein on 25 April.
“It is necessary for the people to know their rights when establishing a democratic system,” said Phyo Myo Thein. “We have the right to express our demands to the rulers of the country, who were elected by the people.”
Accompanying demands to release Burma’s 2,100 political prisoners are calls for the safe return of refugees and political exiles and an end to intractable conflicts with armed ethnic groups.
Activists in Burma however face significant risks, with hundreds behind bars for similar protestations at what they claim is injustice by the government.
The prospect of a prisoner amnesty had been mooted as one of the first signs of appeasement by the new government, which was sworn in last month, but nothing has yet taken place.