Myanmar to free all prisoners of conscience 'soon'

AFP, Tuesday 4 Jun 2013

Myanmar's president said Tuesday his government would soon release all prisoners of conscience, as part of sweeping political reforms following the end of junta rule.

Myanmar has formed a committee to review the cases of political detainees and "all the prisoners of conscience will be free soon", President Thein Sein said in a radio address.

"We are taking time to investigate cases that confuse criminal offences and political offences," he said, adding that people convicted of violent crimes linked to political acts "deserve their sentences".

Since Thein Sein took power in 2011, the formerly military-ruled nation has undergone major reforms with hundreds of political prisoners already freed and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi elected to parliament.

Activists say some 200 political prisoners remain in jail and accuse Myanmar of using a series of headline-grabbing amnesties for political gain.

In May more than 20 political detainees were released before a landmark visit by Thein Sein to the White House, while a previous pardon came a day after the European Union agreed to end almost all sanctions against Myanmar.

In his speech, Thein Sein insisted the aim of the amnesties was "national reconciliation".

"There is no other political advantage that we want," he added.

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