Rep. Andy Levin Introduces Bill to Facilitate the Release of Political Prisoners in Burma

April 19, 2019
Press Release
The bill establishes a United States policy that calls for an end to detaining political prisoners in Burma and instructs the Secretary of State to take action to secure prisoners’ release.

Congressman Andy Levin (D-MI-09) and Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO-2), both members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and Nonproliferation, this week introduced a bill to advocate for the release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Burma.

“It is the moral obligation of the United States to do everything we can to assist political prisoners who are and have been unjustly detained in Burma,” Congressman Levin said. “There are reporters in jail for doing the critical work of documenting the plight of the Rohingya people in Rakhine State, and others detained simply for sharing dissenting views against the government and military. The country must reform to allow free speech and assembly and end the unjust practice of locking up journalists who are doing their jobs.

“The Burma Political Prisoners Assistance Act will codify these values in U.S. policy and recruit the Secretary of State to be a partner in advocating for justice in Burma.”

The Burma Political Prisoners Assistance Act 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.

Such assistance may include the documentation of human rights violations with respect to political prisoners, support for efforts to appeal or amend laws that are used to unjustly imprison individuals and providing health and education support for former prisoners.

The bill highlights two Reuters reporters who have been imprisoned for more than a year for their efforts to report on the Rohingya humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State.

As of March 1, 2019, there were 354 political prisoners in Burma, 43 of them serving sentences, 86 awaiting trial inside prison, and 225 awaiting trial outside prison, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma. 

Read the full bill text HERE.