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Myanmar to free more political prisoners
Monday's amnesty to coincide with speech by Aung San Suu Kyi to mark first anniversary of her release from house arrest.
Last Modified: 13 Nov 2011 12:00



Myanmar is to declare a new prisoner amnesty that will include political detainees, government officials in the
military-dominated country say.

"Some prisoners will be released on Monday," an official who did not wish to be named told the AFP news agency on Sunday, without giving further details.

Another official added that "some prisoners of conscience from prisons outside Yangon" would be among those freed.

The regime pardoned about 200 political prisoners in a much-anticipated amnesty in October, but critics said the gesture did not go far enough as most of the country's political detainees were still locked up.

Monday's expected amnesty will coincide with a press conference by pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi to mark the first anniversary of her release from years of house arrest.

Hopes of change in Myanmar have increased recently, with efforts by the new nominally civilian leadership to reach out to opponents such as Suu Kyi and a government move to defy ally China by freezing work on an unpopular dam.

Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay, reporting from Chiang Mai, Thailand, said Suu Kyi had even received an unofficial offer of a senior postion in government.

'Likely participation'

Suu Kyi is likely to contest a by-election in the coming months, a spokesman for her party said on Saturday, after a change to party-registration laws.

The National League for Democracy (NLD), delisted last year for boycotting a rare election, will now consider whether to re-register as a political party, paving the way for Suu Kyi to return to the political arena.

"The NLD is likely to register and also Daw Suu is likely to participate at the coming by-election," Nyan Win, a party spokesman, told AFP.

"Daw" is a term of respect in Myanmar.

It is not yet clear when a by-election will be held, but there are more than 40 seats available in the parliament's two chambers.

The NLD won a 1990 election but was never allowed to take office, and it withdrew from last year's vote largely because of rules that would have forced it to expel imprisoned members. Suu Kyi was under house arrest at the time.

Critics surprised

Suu Kyi was released a few days after last November's poll, which was widely condemned by the West and marred by claims of cheating.

Even so, the new army-backed government has surprised critics with a series of reforms.

These include a recent amendment to a law on political parties, endorsed by Thein Sein, Myanmar's president, which removed the condition that all parties must agree to "preserve" the country's 2008 constitution, according to state media.

A decision to re-register the NLD is widely expected after 100 senior party members gathered in Yangon on Friday to discuss the move.

Nyan Win did not comment on which constituency Suu Kyi would stand in, or what kind of position she expected, but party sources said she would contest in a Yangon township.

While Myanmar is now ruled by a nominally civilian government, its ranks are filled with former generals.

Suu Kyi has strongly criticised the constitution, part of what the government called its "road map to democracy". She is expected to hold a press conference on Monday to mark the first anniversary of her release.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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