11/14/2011, 00.00
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Burmese govt frees more political prisoners as Aung San Suu Kyi prepares to run for office

by Yaung Ni Oo
The step, which will take effect in the next few days, follows an amnesty in October that saw the release of 200 people jailed for “crimes of opinion”. Opposition leader could run in an upcoming by-election. Forty seats must be filled. Soon, her party will decide whether to register.
Yangon (AsiaNews) – Burma will declare a new prisoner amnesty on Monday that will include jailed political prisoners. This follows a similar measure taken in October that allowed more than 6,000 inmates to go free, including some 200 people imprisoned for “crimes of opinion”.

A year after her release on 13 November 2010, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi announced her intention to run for office in an upcoming by-election. Currently, some 40 seats must be filled in the houses of parliament.

“Some prisoners will be released on Monday,” an official who did not wish to be named told AFP. Another official added that “some prisoners of conscience from prisons outside Rangoon” would be among those freed.

The release of all of the country’s political prisoners, including pro-democracy campaigners, journalists and lawyers, has long been a top demand of the United States and the European Union which imposed economic sanctions on Burma.

Human rights groups say they are aware of more than 1,600 political prisoners still in jail. Government newspapers say that the real number is closer to 500.

National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi announced her intention to run in a by-election for one of 40 seats still vacant in the two houses of the Burmese parliament.

The government said that it would set an election date in the near future but has not yet decided when.

The NLD boycotted the November 2010 parliamentary election, described by the international community as a “farce”. A “civilian” administration was set up after the poll, ending decades of military rule.

Next Saturday, the central committee of the NLD will decide whether to re-register as a political party.

"The NLD is likely to register and also Daw Suu is likely to participate at the coming by-election," Nyan Win, a party spokesman, said. Daw is a term of respect in Myanmar. Aung San Suu Kyi was released last year after spending 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest.

At a press conference, the Nobel Prize laureate told reporters that the measures undertaken by the government towards democratisation were “positive steps”.

“Looking back at the past year, I think I can say that it has been eventful, energizing and to a certain extent encouraging,” Ms Suu Kyi said.
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