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Myanmar to free thousands of prisoners: State media…it’s about time,Burma awakened

AFP-11 October 2011

YANGON – Myanmar will grant an amnesty to more than 6,300 prisoners, state media announced on Tuesday, without saying whether political detainees would be included.

The news came just hours after a government-appointed human rights panel called for a pardon for the country’s “prisoners of conscience”, who are estimated by rights groups to number about 2,000.

Burma awake after over 50 years of dictatorship

The National Human Rights Commission said freeing prisoners “who do not pose a threat to the stability of state” would allow them to participate in “nation-building”, according to an official English-language newspaper.

According to state television, 6,359 prisoners will receive an amnesty starting from Wednesday.

On Monday a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that political prisoners were expected to be released within days.

The release of the country’s estimated 2,000 political detainees, who include pro-democracy campaigners, journalists and lawyers, has long been a top demand of Western nations that have imposed sanctions on Myanmar.

Their release would be one of the clearest yet signs of reform by a new leadership that has reached out to critics including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, freed in November after seven straight years of detention.

A top US official, Kurt Campbell, on Monday hailed recent developments in Myanmar, including what he described as “very consequential dialogue” between Suu Kyi and the leadership.

He hinted that concrete moves towards democracy by Myanmar could lead to an easing of sanctions.

“We will match their steps with comparable steps,” he added.

The new regime, which came to power after controversial elections held a few days before Suu Kyi’s release, appears keen to improve its image and in August held the first talks between her and Thein Sein, a former general.

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