Burma 'preparing prisoner amnesty'

Burma’s new military-backed government is preparing to grant an amnesty to some prisoners, an official said Monday, but it was unclear whether they would include political dissidents.

The move is expected to coincide with President Thein Sein’s visit to Indonesia from Thursday to attend a summit of Southeast Asian leaders, his first overseas trip since he was sworn in as head of state on 30 March.

“Some prisoners will be released around the time of the president’s first state visit,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity and did not provide further details.

According to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPPB) there are currently 2,073 political prisoners in Burma being held under vague laws frequently used to criminalise peaceful political activists.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in November shortly after an election that led to the handover of power from the military to a nominally civilian government.

Her release was welcomed worldwide, but Western governments who impose sanctions on Burma have urged the new government to do more to demonstrate its commitment to improving its much criticised human rights record.

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