As 184 prisoners of conscience have been released in Burma this week, GJC has been hearing news of – and from – newly released friends.
Rather than feeling jubilation or unconstrained hope, we are reminded through our personal conversations with them of the overwhelming feelings that come with being released (in some cases, after 23 years) as well as the despairing anguish of knowing that so many other political prisoners remain in prisons across Burma.
We are also mindful of the more than 1,816 prisoners of conscience themselves who continue to await release – including many who have been waiting for decades. We think, too, of their loved ones, including many who today continue to hope and wait outside of prisons in Burma with the hope that the person they love will be among those released.
History teaches us that what should be unfettered hope for our newly released friends in Burma, and even measured hope for those political prisoners who remain detained, must be tempered by skepticism and caution until real, proven change comes.
As those of us with friends or loved ones in (or newly released from) prisons in Burma understand, what should be unbridled joy at the release of 184 political prisoners (of 6,359 prisoners released) must in fact be bridled by the understanding that releases such as this one are strategically timed by the military for political advantage.
Even as the number of political prisoners released grows incrementally to 220 (October 13), friends of Burma are now called to pay ever more careful attention to what is and is not being done by the regime, for example by noticing the discrepancy in numbers between the total prisoners released and actual number of political prisoners released. By doing so, we will not mistake much more progress and promise for what has in fact been delivered.
All of this said, we extend our heartfelt best wishes to the 184 political prisoners who have been released this week and their families.
By Julaine Eberhard, Geneva Project Consultant for the Global Justice Center