Burma to release 6,300 prisoners
RANGOON, Burma - Burma's military government announced an amnesty last night for thousands of prisoners but did not mention whether any political detainees will be among those released.
State radio and television announced that the convicts from various prisons would be released starting today. The brief announcement said 6,313 prisoners were being freed in recognition of their good conduct and so that they would be able to participate in a general election planned for next year.
Human rights groups estimate that the regime holds more than 2,100 political detainees, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention without trial.
When the junta freed 9,002 prisoners last September, only about a dozen were political detainees. In recent months, the junta's courts have sentenced more than 100 dissidents, including prominent activists, to prison terms that would keep them incarcerated well past the 2010 election.
The top UN envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, who recently visited the country, said in New York that he had not received any official communique from the government and was waiting to see how many of the prisoners were criminals and how many were political prisoners.