Burma Releases 155 Political Prisoners

Prominent activist Zarganar among them
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2011 7:31 AM CDT
Myanmar's comedian and government critic Zarganar talks to journalists on his arrival at the Yangon international airport in Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011.   (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

(Newser) – Burma today began releasing the 6,300 prisoners who will be granted amnesty, but so far the number of political detainees released does not come close to the estimated 2,000 who are in jail. The Telegraph puts the number of political prisoners released at 120, while the AP reports 155, including members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. Other inmates released were ordinary criminals, many of them elderly, ill, disabled, or well-behaved.

One of the most high-profile prisoners released today is activist Zarganar, who was sentenced to 35 years in 2008 after criticizing the government’s slow response to Cyclone Nargis and organizing aid deliveries to victims. Others released included top members of ethnic minority political parties as well as student activist Aung Kyaw Soe, who had served 21 years. It's the clearest move yet from the country's new government toward liberalization, but the AP notes that Burma likely must release a significant number of political prisoners if it wants economic and political sanctions from the West lifted. (Read more Burma stories.)

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