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3,000 prisoners to go free in Burma

The government in Burma has pardoned over 3,000 prisoners but advocacy groups said no political detainees were included despite a pledge to free all of them by the end of this year.

The Ministry of Information announced the amnesty on its website, saying the 3,073 prisoners were being freed "on humanitarian grounds".

It did not mention political prisoners. Most of those released had committed minor crimes but at least eight were former intelligence officers jailed a decade ago as part of a political purge.

The release came a month ahead of a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders to be held in Burma.

Ye Aung, a former political detainee and member of the official Political Prisoner Scrutiny Committee, initially said 13 political prisoners would be freed but later said that was incorrect.

"According to the list we are given, there are no political prisoners among those freed today," he said. He said those released included 58 foreigners.

Bo Kyi, of the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, also said he had not heard of any political prisoners being released.

"The majority are criminals. We told the government earlier that releasing criminals increases crime and measures should be taken to prevent it," he said.

According to the association, there were 80 political activists incarcerated in Burma at the end of September and 130 others awaiting trial for political actions.

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

He has released more than 1,000 political prisoners since taking office but critics say people continue to be locked up for political offences under his military-backed government.

Those freed today included at least eight former senior military intelligence officers detained after the 2004 ousting of former intelligence chief and prime minister Khin Nyunt.

He was removed from office after fellow junta leaders accused him of insubordination and being responsible for a major corruption scandal involving his subordinates.

He was given a 44-year sentence to be served under house arrest and freed in a 2012 amnesty.

More than three dozen senior intelligence officers linked to him, some ranking as high as brigadier general, received sentences ranging from 20 years to more than 100 years on multiple charges including bribery and corruption, in what was widely regarded as a power struggle within the country's then-ruling military.

Ye Aung later reviewed the list of those released again and said one political prisoner had been amnestied.

Bo Kyi later also said one had been freed. He identified the released prisoner as Mar La, a member of the Kachin minority, which has been battling the central government for autonomy.


From Belfast Telegraph