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Myanmar Releases Political Prisoners

Originally appeared in United Press International

July 3, 2012

Myanmar released at least 20 political prisoners as part of a general amnesty program government officials said is meant to foster national unity.

The official New Light of Myanmar said President Thein Sein ordered 46 prisoners to be released and 34 foreign prisoners to be deported Tuesday, Voice of America reported.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has freed hundreds of political prisoners since a civilian government was elected last year after decades of harsh military rule.

Rights groups, however, expressed lingering concern about the hundreds of prisoners of conscience still in detention. Khin Ohmar, coordinator of Burma Partnership, told VOA she was worried that many less well-known activists could slip through the cracks.

“Those more than 400 political prisoners still behind bars, because they are not prominent, that’s why they need more attention from the international community, including the United States and the rest of the world and international governments,” Khin Ohmar said. “They must all work together and keep calling on this regime and pressuring them to release these remaining political prisoners, without further delay, unconditionally.”

Many Western governments have been easing sanctions against Myanmar, responding to the country’s political and economic reforms. The unconditional release of all remaining political prisoners is a key condition for many countries to fully restore diplomatic ties with Myanmar.

Government officials said the remaining dissidents haven’t released because authorities are trying to determine which detainees were guilty of committing violent crimes and which were political activists.

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