Burma’s State Television Says Prisoner Release Imminent

Posted October 11th, 2011 at 3:20 am (UTC-5)
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Burma's state television announced Tuesday that the government will begin releasing more than 6,000 prisoners Wednesday.

The brief announcement, monitored by VOA's Burmese service, said the prisoners will be released for good conduct. It did not say how many would be freed in the first group or whether the release would include any of Burma's more than 2,000 political prisoners. Burma does not acknowledge that any of its prisoners are detained for political reasons.

However, government officials have been privately telling diplomats that many of the political prisoners will be released this week.

Earlier Tuesday, Burma's new human rights commission called for President Thein Sein to release hundreds of political prisoners, lending weight to expectations that a release is imminent.

In an open letter released Tuesday, National Human Rights Commission chairman Win Mra said the United Nations and a number of countries have called for the release of “prisoners of conscience.”

The chairman, whose panel was established by the new government last month, says the release of prisoners who do not pose a threat to “the stability of state and public tranquility” will allow them to take part in “nation-building tasks.”

On Monday, Norwegian Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Espen Barth Eide told VOA's Burmese service that he has been told by Parliament Speaker Thura Shwe Mann that some prisoners would be released this week.

Western governments are demanding the release of more than 2,000 pro-democracy activists jailed by the former military junta, in return for lifting economic sanctions in place for much of the past decade.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told VOA's Burmese service Monday that Washington is prepared to respond positively to Burmese steps toward democracy.