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Myanmar frees more political prisoners

Government spokesman claims no more political prisoners, but figures remain unclear

<p>One of the freed political activists, Htin Kyaw (C), walks out of jail. Picture: AFP Photo/Soe Than Win </p>

One of the freed political activists, Htin Kyaw (C), walks out of jail. Picture: AFP Photo/Soe Than Win 

  • John Zaw, Mandalay
  • Myanmar
  • January 1, 2014
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Myanmar pardoned more political detainees on Tuesday, as part of President Thein Sein’s pledge to free all political prisoners by the end of 2013.

The official announcement did not state how many were to be released. Reports vary between three and seven, while most estimates agree there are still around 40 political prisoners behind bars and a further 200 facing trial or under investigation.

In the past two and a half years, Myanmar’s parliamentary government has freed more than 2,000 political detainees following five decades of military rule.

But presidential spokesman Ye Htut claimed that the amnesty, along with a separate pardon for five additional inmates jailed under other legislation, means there are now no political prisoners in Myanmar.

“I would like to say that the president has fulfilled his promised given to the people, there will be no political prisoners at the end of this year,” Ye Htut said in a post on his Facebook page.

State-run newspaper, New Light of Myanmar, reported that the pardon applies to people convicted of or charged with unlawful association, high treason and violation of peaceful assembly law. The presidential decree also halts any ongoing trails and investigations on those charges.

Thet Oo, an activist and former political prisoner confirmed that a number had been freed. “Five political prisoners were freed today from Yangon’s Insein and district prisons and more are expected to be released soon,” he said

Ye Aung, also a former detainee, is now a member of a new government-appointed panel which reviews the cases of remaining prisoners.

“We welcome the latest amnesty as the president is showing his commitment to release all political prisoners in 2013,” he said. “But we need to carry out the rehabilitation of the released political detainees as it is the crucial step for national reconciliation.” said Ye Aung who himself a former political detainee.

According to an AFP report, peace activists Yan Naing Tun and Aung Min Oo, who were recently sentenced to eight months in prison for marching to the rebel town of Laiza in strife-torn Kachin state, were greeted by jubilant supporters as they walked free yesterday.

"I respect the president for keeping his promise," Yan Naing Tun told reporters.

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