01/03/2007, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Junta releases 3,000 people from jail but no political prisoners

Amnesty comes on the 59th anniversary of the country’s independence from Great Britain. Those released are mostly common criminals; none of the many political prisoners are included.

Naypydaw (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Nearly 3,000 prisoners were released ahead of the 59th anniversary of Myanmar’s independence from Great Britain, state-controlled The New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported today.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, gained independence from its British rulers on January 4, 1948, after more than 120 years of colonial rule.

The newspaper said the ruling military council granted amnesty to 2,831 prisoners “whose moral behaviour and spiritual values have improved and changed for the better.”

With today’s prisoner release, the government has granted amnesty to a total of 23,147 people since November 2004.

The government often grants amnesties to mark important national days but most of those released are petty thieves or common criminals with very few political prisoners having been set free.

Prison department officials, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals from their seniors, said prominent political prisoners were not among those released.

National League for Democracy leader and Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, her party deputy Tin Oo or prominent journalist Win Tin are still under house arrest or in jail.

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