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Govt announces release of 9,000 prisoners

world Updated: Sep 23, 2008 11:15 IST
AFP
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Myanmar's military government announced in state media on Tuesday that it would release more than 9,000 prisoners so that they can take part in elections promised for 2010.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper did not reveal if any of the nation's estimated 2,000 political detainees would be freed in the amnesty, but claimed the move would further democracy in Myanmar.

It said 9,002 prisoners would be released on Tuesday because of good conduct and "to enable them to serve the interests of the regions and their own and the fair election to be held in 2010."

"Plans are being made for those serving prison terms to turn them into citizens to be able to participate in building a new nation," the paper added.

The United Nations has urged the regime to free all political prisoners, the most famous of whom is democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She has been detained for most of the last 19 years.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) party said it was not optimistic that their colleagues and other activists would be freed on Tuesday.

"They have released prisoners like this in the past, but normally political prisoners were not among those released. We haven't got any information yet," NLD spokesman Nyan Win told AFP.

Myanmar's military government has said it will hold multi-party elections in 2010, but critics say the polls are just a way for the generals to solidify and legitimise their power.

About 700 of the 2,000 political prisoners that human rights groups say are currently behind bars were arrested after massive anti-junta demonstrations last September, which the regime quashed a year ago this week.

The UN has said at least 31 people were killed during the crackdown, and security has been tight in Yangon during the anniversary of the violence.

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