Myanmar pardons 3,000 prisoners

Inmates to be freed "on humanitarian grounds" one month before Asia Pacific summit set to be attended by US president.

    Myanmar's President Thein Sein has already freed more than 1,000 political prisoners since taking office [File: AFP]
    Myanmar's President Thein Sein has already freed more than 1,000 political prisoners since taking office [File: AFP]

    Myanmar's government has pardoned 3,073 prisoners, including 58 foreign nationals, as part of an amnesty that rights groups said included more than a dozen political prisoners.

    The Ministry of Information announced the amnesty on its website on Tuesday, saying the prisoners were being freed "on humanitarian grounds".

    It did not refer specifically to political prisoners, and most of those released had committed minor crimes.

    The Political Prisoner Scrutiny Committee said that at least 13 of those pardoned were jailed on political offences and at least eight were former senior military intelligence officers detained after the 2004 ousting of former prime minister and intelligence chief, Khin Nyunt.

    The family of at least one former senior military officer confirmed the release.

    General Thein Swe, arrested in a 2004 purge on his department during junta rule - was among those freed.

    "Having a top day with great news. I'm heading to Myingyan to pick up my dad," said Sonny Swe, the general's son and a well known media businessman, on social media.

    Timing of the release

    Ye Aung, a former prisoner himself and now a member of the government committee, said the amnesty appeared to have been timed ahead of a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in Myanmar next month.

    US President Barack Obama and other leaders from outside the region are expected to attend the gathering.

    Ye praised the announcement, but called for the release of about 75 political prisoners who remain detained.

    President Thein Sein, a former general who was elected in 2011 after five decades of military rule, had pledged to free all political offenders by the end of the year.

    Thein has freed more than 1,000 political prisoners under at least a dozen amnesties since taking office.

    It has become a pattern for prison amnesties to coincide with high-profile international or regional meetings as a way of highlighting what the Myanmar government says are its benevolent policies.


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