Fri 30 Dec 2011
Filed under: Inside Burma
Naypyidaw: Myanmar’s army-backed regime may free more political prisoners on the upcoming national holidays of January 4 and February 12, an official from the lower house of parliament said today.
“More prisoners of conscience will be released very soon for sure,” Aung Ko, chairman of the judicial and legal affairs committee of the lower house, told reporters in Naypyidaw.
Aung Ko did not specify how many political detainees might walk free.
He said that Myanmar’s Railways Minister Aung Min, who is also the government’s envoy for high-profile peace talks with ethnic minority groups, recently said prisoner amnesties could happen on January 4, when the country celebrates Independence Day, and on Union day on February 12.
Hopes for change in Myanmar have grown recently following a series of reformist gestures as the country appears keen to end its international isolation, but pressure remains for it to release all political detainees.
The new nominally civilian government, which in March replaced a long-ruling military junta, pardoned more than 6,300 prisoners — including about 200 political detainees — in a much-anticipated amnesty in October.
But the government disappointed observers and the opposition National League for Democracy party by leaving many top dissidents behind bars.
A key demand of the opposition and foreign governments has long been the freeing of Myanmar’s political prisoners, estimated by activists to number anywhere from 500 to more than 1,500.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted on the release of all of Myanmar’s prisoners of conscience during a historic visit to the country earlier this month.