December 23, 2011
AIPMC meets with Zarganar, reiterates call for release of all political prisoners in Myanmar
PHNOM PENH – The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) today reiterated its call for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Myanmar as a prerequisite for genuine democratic change in the Southeast Asian country.
The call came as AIPMC Vice-President, Cambodian MP and Chair of the AIPMC Cambodia Caucus, Son Chhay, met with comedian Maung Thura, known as Zarganar, earlier this week in Phnom Penh. Zarganar, on his first trip outside of Myanmar since being granted a passport, met with Son Chhay and other MPs from the Sam Rainsy Party in Phnom Penh on Wednesday evening.
“Zarganar shared with us his experience of Myanmar’s prisons, where he and other political prisoners have encountered untold abuses. It is imperative that all political prisoners be released immediately if President Thein Sein’s move toward democracy is to be seen as genuine and fully inclusive,” said Son Chhay.
“Zarganar’s strength and determination in the face of tyranny by a military government is something we can all learn from. His ability to remain positive and committed to standing up against injustice despite the very real threat to his life and security is very admirable. I only hope all of us in other ASEAN countries can learn from his example and help establish human rights standards and genuine democracy as pillars in Myanmar and our own countries.”
Zarganar expressed his appreciation to AIPMC for its years of hard work to help end human rights violations in Myanmar and help push for a return to democracy. He also expressed his full support for AIPMC’s plan to visit Myanmar in February 2012, saying it could help to ensure genuine reform and reduce human rights violations in Myanmar.
As part of AIPMC’s long-standing goals to secure democracy and an end to human rights violations and in light of recent developments within Myanmar and its expected chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014, AIPMC intends to make an official visit to Myanmar in early 2012. A delegation of AIPMC member MPs and staff from the Executive Secretariat plan to travel to Yangon and Naypyidaw to meet with various actors, including members of the political opposition, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the National League of Democracy, as well as members of civil society, ethnic representatives and representatives of the government, parliamentarians, and member of the National Human Rights Commission.
“Reforms are taking place in Myanmar and we hope to be able to support these changes,” said AIPMC President and member of Indonesian Parliament Eva Kusuma Sundari. “We want to see the Myanmar government take concrete steps towards ensuring all political prisoners are released; we want to see real efforts made by the government and military cease all state violence and human rights violations against its own civilians, especially ethnic minorities and other vulnerable peoples; and we would like to see inclusive dialog between the government, ethnic leaders and the political opposition held soon as a step towards national reconciliation and peace.”
Zarganar is well known for his political jokes and satire on military rule, and for helping victims of Cyclone Nargis. He has been imprisoned three times and spent a total of eight years behind bars. He was released from his latest prison term in October under a government amnesty, which included more than 200 political prisoners. Since his release, Zarganar has been working to assess the changes taking place in his country, meeting regularly with Aung San Suu Kyi and trying to secure the release of the hundreds of political prisoners still languishing in Myanmar’s jails.
“Education is very important if you want people to fully understand what democracy and human rights actually are and mean,” Zarganar said. “Young Burmese should be able to travel abroad to learn and experience real democracy and how people work to protect human rights.”
Zarganar announced this week that he will travel to the United States at the end of January 2012, where he will stay for three months and study at the William J. Clinton Foundation.