Myanmar to free more political prisoners

2013-07-23 14:00
A freed Myanmar political prisoner, right, is welcomed by his friend as he comes out of Insein prison in Yangon, Myanmar in January 2012. (File, AP)

A freed Myanmar political prisoner, right, is welcomed by his friend as he comes out of Insein prison in Yangon, Myanmar in January 2012. (File, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Yangon - Myanmar has agreed to release about 70 political prisoners, an official said on Tuesday, after President Thein Sein vowed to free all dissidents by the end of the year.

"The president has signed an amnesty for about 70 political prisoners around the country," presidential advisor Hla Maung Shwe, a senior official at the Myanmar Peace Centre, said.

Last week Thein Sein said there would be "no prisoners of conscience in Myanmar" by the end of the year during a speech in London.

The move is the latest gesture of reform by the former general, who has ushered in a period of sweeping change since the end of junta rule in 2011.

Rights groups and officials estimate there were between around 100 and 150 political prisoners in Myanmar ahead of Tuesday's announcement.

Hla Maung Shwe said some of those being released were ethnic minority rebels from northern Kachin state, where the government is working on brokering a crucial ceasefire deal.

Review of 'politically concerned' cases

He said some prisoners had already been freed.

The military junta, which ruled Myanmar with an iron fist for decades, had long denied the existence of political prisoners.

But hundreds of dissidents have been freed since Thein Sein took power two years ago. Last November he announced a review of all "politically concerned" cases.

Activists welcomed Tuesday's release, but urged the government to go further.

"The president said in Britain that there would be no political prisoners at the end of this year. We would like to say that the promise needs to be implemented precisely," Myint Aung, a member of the Former Political Prisoners group, said.

He said it was not immediately clear if those freed matched the group's list of detained dissidents.

Tentative peace deals

"We will continue calling for the release of the rest," he added.

Thein Sein has been praised by foreign governments for reforms including welcoming Suu Kyi and her political party into parliament.

The quasi-civilian government has also reached tentative peace deals with major armed ethnic minority rebel groups in the country, which has been wracked by civil wars since independence from British colonial rule in 1948.

"Very possibly, over the coming weeks, we will have a nationwide ceasefire and the guns will go silent everywhere in Myanmar for the very first time in over 60 years," Thein Sein said last week.

Hla Maung Shwe said the announcement could lead to "more meetings" between the government and Kachin rebels, indicating that the move may have been part of ceasefire negotiations.

In response to Myanmar's changes, the European Union has scrapped most sanctions, except for an arms embargo, and has readmitted Myanmar to its trade preference scheme.

The United States has also lifted most embargoes and foreign companies are now eager to enter the resource-rich nation, with its perceived frontier market of about 60 million potential consumers.

Read more on:    thein sein  |  aung san suu kyi  |  myanmar

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.