September 1, 2009

Updated February 17, 2011

  • Activists and anyone outspoken against military rule have been routinely locked up in Burma's prisons for years.
  • There are now more than 2,100 political prisoners in Burma--more than double the number in early 2007.
  • There are 43 prisons holding political activists in Burma, and over 50 labor camps where prisoners are forced into hard labor projects.
  • Beginning in late 2008, closed courts and courts inside prisons sentenced more than 300 activists including political figures, human rights defenders, labor activists, artists, journalists, internet bloggers, and Buddhist monks and nuns to lengthy prison terms. Some prison terms handed down were in excess of one hundred years.
  • The activists were mainly charged under provisions from Burma's archaic Penal Code that criminalizes free expression, peaceful demonstrations, and forming organizations.
  • The sentencing was the second phase of a larger crackdown that began with the brutal suppression of peaceful protests in August and September 2007. The authorities arrested many of the activists during and in the immediate aftermath of the 2007 protests or in raids that swept Rangoon and other cities in Burma in late 2007 and 2008.
  • More than 20 prominent activists and journalists, including Burma's most famous comedian, Zargana, were arrested for having spoken out about obstacles to humanitarian relief following Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma in May 2008. Three of them have been released in early 2011 as their sentences expired, but the majority of civil society workers remain in prison with long terms still to serve.
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