Burmese junta frees 9,002 prisoners
Burma’s military junta frees over 9,000 prisoners.
Burma’s junta has freed 9,002 prisoners for good behaviour so they can help build a new nation ahead of elections planned for 2010, state media has reported.
It was not clear if any of the country’s 1,200 political prisoners were among those released.
The state-controlled Myanmar Ahlin newspaper said that freedom was granted to prisoners around the country who exhibited good “moral behaviour”.
“The government is trying to transform these convicted prisoners into citizens who can contribute to the building of a new nation,” the newspaper said, adding they were released “so they could participate in the fair elections to be held in 2010”.
The elections are part of the junta’s long announced “roadmap to democracy”, which will give voters the first chance to cast ballots since 1990.
Critics say the roadmap is a sham designed to cement the military’s power.
In 1990, Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party won a landslide victory, which the junta refused to acknowledge. Instead, the generals stepped up arrests and repression of dissidents. Suu Kyi has spent more than 12 of the past 19 years in detention and is currently under house arrest.
The government often grants amnesties to mark important national days, but most of those released are petty criminals.
Tuesday’s announcement came ahead of the one-year anniversary of the junta’s deadly September 26-27, 2007, crackdown on anti-government protests that were led by Buddhist monks.
The UN estimated that at least 31 people, including a Japanese photojournalist, were killed when the army fired on peaceful protesters. Hundreds of activists were arrested in the crackdown and many fled the country or went underground.