Levin Bill to Facilitate Release of Political Prisoners in Burma Passes Committee

June 20, 2019
Press Release
The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to advance the Burma Political Prisoners Assistance Act, which calls for the release of political prisoners in Burma and directs the State Department’s assistance to civil society organizations aiding in their release.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee today voted to pass a bill introduced by Congressman Andy Levin (MI-09) calling for the release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Burma and directing the State Department to bolster its efforts to that end.

The bill is endorsed by Amnesty International and PEN America.

Watch his remarks HERE.

“While our State Department and USAID are working to aid political prisoners, more needs to be done. That’s where this bill comes in,” Congressman Levin said during the bill’s markup in the House Foreign Affairs Committee today. “We need to support efforts to change or repeal the very laws that are being used to stifle free expression and honest reporting, and that were used to imprison people like Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo. We should support the creation of an independent prisoner review mechanism to examine cases like these and offer recommendations as to how the law might better protect free expression.

“And we need to make clear that this Congress is united —Democrats and Republicans—in its support for a free press, freedom of expression, and the fundamental rights of the Burmese people.”

The Burma Political Prisoners Assistance Act, which was introduced by Congressman Levin and Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO), calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all Burmese political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and directs the U.S. Secretary of State to provide aid to such prisoners.

The bill also instructs the Secretary of State to assist civil society organizations in the country that work to free political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

As of the end of April 2019, there were 331 political prisoners in Burma, 48 of them serving sentences, 90 awaiting trial inside prison, and 193 awaiting trial outside prison, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma.