Burma Frees Political Prisoners
Famous dissidents, ethnic leaders released
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 13, 2012 5:40 AM CST
Family members of political prisoners wait outside the Insein prison in Rangoon today.   (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)
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(Newser) – Burma is continuing to move toward meeting the West's demands with surprising speed. Dozens of its best known political prisoners were freed today in the country's most sweeping prisoner release yet, reports the New York Times. Those freed include leaders of 1988's failed pro-democracy uprising, ethnic minority leaders, monks arrested in the 2007 protests, journalists, and former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt, who was jailed in 2005 after falling out of favor with the ruling junta.

Just yesterday, Burma signed a cease-fire with ethnic Karen rebels, who had been fighting for greater autonomy for more than 60 years. As many as a thousand political prisoners are still behind bars, however, and economic sanctions are likely to remain in place at least until elections are held in April. "I think we are close to the removal of Western sanctions," an analyst tells the AP, but "there's a sense that there's still more to go before the sanctions will be removed."