Myanmar frees dozens of political prisoners in amnesty
Myanmar yesterday pardoned dozens of political prisoners, activists said, a day after the European Union agreed to end almost all sanctions against the former pariah state.
At least 59 political prisoners were included in the latest amnesty, Bo Kyi of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) said.
"More than 200 ... are still in prison," he added. "Political prisoners should be recognised as political prisoners and be released unconditionally."
The amnesty included 40 former rebels from eastern Shan state jailed for drug trafficking, he said, describing them as "victims of politics". Another activist, Nyan Lin from the 88 Generation group, confirmed that at least 30 political prisoners were released.
His figure included 17 Muslims arrested and charged under the emergency act after religious clashes in the central town of Kyaukse in 2003.
A Myanmar government official said in total 93 inmates - including three foreigners - were pardoned, but did not identify them.
Myanmar, which long denied their existence, has freed hundreds of political detainees since President Thein Sein took power in March 2011. The government announced a review of all politically related cases in November last year.
"I think the government is releasing prisoners because the EU lifted sanctions. We welcome their release," said activist Toe Kyaw Hlaing, who has been working to secure pardons for imprisoned dissidents.
Rights groups have warned that the EU risks losing leverage over Myanmar by scrapping the measures.