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At least 45 political prisoners, including ethnic minority rebels and human rights activists, have been released from jail in Burma, activists confirmed on Monday.
On Sunday, state media announced the release of 66 prisoners as a measure of “goodwill” by President Thein Sein. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma (AAPP-B) told DVB that the “majority” of freed inmates are likely to be political prisoners. So far they have confirmed 45.
It follows the release of 452 prisoners on Thursday, which was slammed by human rights groups for not including any political prisoners.
Prominent human rights campaigner, U Myint Aye, is understood to be among those released, as well as members of the Karen National Union and the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front.
But campaigners say the latest amnesty will also be worthless, unless President Thein Sein recognises the freed inmates as political prisoners.
“These prisoners are being freed with chains around their necks until the government of Burma officially recognises them as political prisoners and removes their criminal records. Until then, they are being released into an open prison,” Marcia Robiou from AAPP-B told DVB.
“It is unbelievable that until now, President Thein Sein refuses to recognise the existence of political prisoners.”
The Burmese government continues to insist that all remaining inmates are criminals. So far all prisoners have been released under section 401 of Burma’s code of criminal procedures, which allows the state to re-arrest any individual at will.
“If any condition on which a sentence has been suspended or remitted is, in the opinion of the President of Union, not fulfilled, the President of the Union may cancel the suspension,” the legislation warns.
President Thein Sein has received international praise for implementing a number of democratic reforms in the former pariah state, including easing media restrictions and releasing political prisoners. On Sunday, he further pledged to review its prisoner cases in line with international humanitarian standards.
“The government of Myanmar [Burma] will initiate a process between the Ministry of Home Affairs and interested parties to devise a transparent mechanism to review remaining prisoner cases of concern by the end of December 2012,” his office said.
The latest wave of reforms is broadly viewed as an effort to warm diplomatic relations with the United States and marks President Obama’s landmark visit to the Southeast Asian country. The US has repeatedly called for the release of all remaining political prisoners in Burma.
AAPP-B estimates that at least 200 political prisoners remain in jail.