UN Chief “Following Closely” Release of Political Prisoners in Burma

Posted October 13th, 2011 at 9:50 pm (UTC-5)
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United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he is following closely the release of political prisoners by Burma's government as part of the amnesty granted by President Thein Sein.

In a statement Thursday, Mr. Ban said he welcomes the release of a number of prominent figures. However, he expressed hope that the government will ensure the early release all political prisoners in accordance with its commitment to uphold fundamental rights and the rule of law.

Mr. Ban's statement follows reports Wednesday that the Burmese authorities released about 200 political prisoners among more than 6,000 detainees who were freed on what the Burmese government calls humanitarian grounds.

The U.N. chief also acknowledged the ongoing dialogue between the Burmese government and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and negotiations between the authorities and ethnic groups.

He called on all parties in the Asian country to redouble their efforts to strengthen national unity, set the country on the reform path and address serious challenges facing the country.

The United States also welcomed Burma's release of political prisoners, but called on its rulers to free those who still remain in custody. International human rights groups estimate that more than 2,000 dissidents are still behind bars.

A State Department spokeswoman said the release of political prisoners is an important step that responds to the aspirations of the Burmese people. She said the U.S. is continuing talks with Burma on such issues.

The Burmese military handed power in March to an elected civilian government. But critics say the new government is dominated by retired army officials. In recent months, Burmese President Thein Sein has made several overtures toward the opposition, loosened some controls on the media and started a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Burma still faces economic and political sanctions from the United States and European Union, which insist on the release of all Burmese political prisoners.