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Sept 22, 2009 (DVB), The recent release of hundreds of political prisoners in Burma was a "cynical ploy to ease international pressure", said a Thailand-based group of former political prisoners.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma (AAPP) today confirmed that of approximately 7,000 released from jails, at least 127 are political prisoners.
Of those released, 43 are from the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, including three elected MPs. The government said that the amnesty was granted "on humanitarian grounds".
The 127 released represent a small dent in the number of political prisoners in Burma, now believed to be over 2,200. Significantly major leaders such as 88 generation leader Min Ko Naing, Shan Nationalities League for Democracy leader U Khun Tun Oo remain behind bars.
Most notably, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will likely spend the next 18 months under house arrest, the only Nobel laureate to be in detention. Tate Naing, AAPP secretary and former political prisoner, described the three as a "threat to [the junta's] absolute power".
"There can be no real progress towards democracy in our country until all political prisoners are released," he said.
This is thought to be the sixth prisoner amnesty since 2004, with only around 1.3 percent considered political prisoners by AAPP.
The timing of such releases is by many considered to be significant. This one comes shortly before a UN General Assembly hearing that will be attended by Burmese prime minister Thein Sein, and a day after a damning Human Rights Watch report on political prisoners in Burma.
Another notable detainee to have been released was award-winning journalist Eint Kaing Oo, who was imprisoned after reporting on post-cyclone Nargis recovery last year.
AAPP estimate that 124 political prisoners in Burma are in "poor health". In July an 87-year-old member of the NLD who had collapsed frequently during his trial was sentenced to two years in prison.
Reporting by Joseph Allchin