Myanmar to release all 'prisoners of conscience'

Featured South East Asia - June 5th, 2013

Myanmar’s remaining political detainees, including all prisoners of conscience, will soon be freed, President Thein Sein pledged Tuesday, as part of sweeping reforms in the once junta-ruled nation.

In a radio address, the reformist leader said a committee had been formed formed to review cases “that confuse criminal offences and political offences”.

“I don’t want anyone who is imprisoned with particular political beliefs in any jail,” Thein Sein said, adding that any prisoners serving jail time for holding, expressing or acting in accord with political beliefs would be freed soon.

He added, however, that people convicted of violent crimes linked to political acts “deserve their sentences,” reports AFP.

Thein Sein has not provided a timetable and did not reveal the number of prisoners the government considers to be jailed for their political beliefs, Radio Free Asia reports.

Since taking power in March 2011, Thein Sein has released hundreds of political detainees. But around 200 political prisoners are languishing in various jails across Myanmar, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).

More than 20 political prisoners were pardoned in May ahead of a landmark visit by Thein Sein to the White House.