Myanmar frees dozens of political prisoners

Featured South East Asia - April 24th, 2013

Myanmar on Tuesday pardoned nearly 100 prisoners, including dozens of political detainees, a day after the European Union agreed to end almost all sanction against the former pariah state.

Among the 93 pardoned and released were 59 political prisoners, officials said, most of whom were former rebels from the Shan ethnic group, one of Myanmar’s several minorities that spent decades sporadically fighting against the government for more independence. Three foreigners – believed to be activists from China – were also freed.

While several hundred prisoners have been freed since the nominally civilian government – led by President Thein Sein – took power in March 2011, more than 300 political detainees still remain behind bars, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The releases come a day after the European Union removed nearly all its sanctions against the Southeast Asian nation, despite warnings that it risks losing leverage over Myanmar amid allegations that authorities had participated in “coordinated attacks” on a minority Muslim group.

Washington welcomed the latest release but called for the unconditional freedom of all political prisoners, US State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said, AFP reports.