(AFP) – Sep 23, 2008
YANGON (AFP) — Myanmar's military government will release more than 9,000 prisoners so they can take part in elections promised by the ruling generals for 2010, state media announced Tuesday.
Official newspapers did not reveal if any of the nation's estimated 2,000 political detainees would be freed in the amnesty, but an opposition party spokesman said he heard four prominent political prisoners may be released.
The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said 9,002 prisoners would be released on Tuesday due to good conduct and "to enable them to serve the interests of the regions 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.
A spokesman from her National League for Democracy (NLD) said similar amnesties in the past had not included political prisoners but noted that a few NLD supporters may have been freed on Tuesday.
"We heard that four prominent political prisoners including Win Tin were released. But so far we haven't got any confirmation. We are trying to confirm this with their family members," Nyan Win told AFP.
Win Tin, a 78-year-old journalist, is the country's longest-serving political prisoner and has been detained since 1989. His friend Maung Maung Khin said they were waiting hopefully for any news of his freedom.
United Nations human rights envoy to Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana met with Win Tin and other prominent political prisoners inside the notorious Insein Prison when he visited the country in August.
They included Buddhist monk Gambira, who helped lead massive anti-government protests in September last year.
About 700 of the 2,000 political prisoners that human rights groups say are currently behind bars were arrested during those demonstrations, 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.
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.
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