October 7, 2014 2:49 am

Myanmar pardons over 3,000 prisoners on “humanitarian grounds”

:Myanmar journalists wearing T-shirts that say 'Stop Killing Press' stage a silent protest for five journalists who were jailed for 10 years on July 10, near the Myanmar Peace Center where Myanmar President Thein Sein was scheduled to meet with local artists in Yangon on July 12, 2014.

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YANGON, Myanmar – The Myanmar government pardoned 3,073 prisoners Tuesday as part of an amnesty that rights groups said included more than a dozen political prisoners, a month before a summit of regional leaders convenes in the country.

The Ministry of Information announced the amnesty on its website, saying the prisoners were being freed “on humanitarian grounds.” It did not refer specifically to political prisoners. Most of those released had committed minor crimes.

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The official Political Prisoner Scrutiny Committee said that at least 13 of those pardoned were jailed on political offences and at least eight were former senior military intelligence officers detained after the 2004 ouster of former intelligence chief and Prime Minister Khin Nyunt.

Ye Aung, a former prisoner himself and now a member of the government committee, said the amnesty appeared to have been timed ahead of a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in Myanmar next month.

He praised the release, but called for the freedom of about 75 political prisoners who remain detained.

President Thein Sein, a former general who was elected in 2011 after five decades of military rule, had pledged to free all political offenders by the end of the year. He has freed more than 1,000 political prisoners since taking office but critics note that people continue to be locked up for political offences under his nominally civilian government.

READ MORE: Myanmar government warns violence could threaten democratic reforms

It has become a pattern for prison amnesties to coincide with high-profile international or regional meetings as a way of highlighting what the Myanmar government says are its benevolent policies.

© 2014 Shaw Media

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