YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar’s president pardoned 69 more political prisoners Friday, part of a promise to free all who remain behind bars by the end of the year.
Most were members of ethnic minorities, said Ye Aung, who sits on the government’s political prisoner scrutiny committee, but the list also included two grandchildren of former dictator Gen. Ne Win.
Both have been on death row since 2002 for allegedly attempting to stage a coup against the then-military regime of senior Gen. Than Shwe.
The continued detention of prisoners of conscience in Myanmar has been a concern of the United States and other Western nations, which want to promote the country’s transition to full democracy following a half-century of brutal military rule.
Despite the pardons, critics note that people continue to be detained for political offenses under the nominally civilian government of President Then Sein, who took office two years ago.
Ye Aung, himself a former prisoner, said after Friday’s announcement that at least 60 political prisoners remain in jail.
Dozens of those released Friday had been charged under Section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law for staging protests without getting prior permission, he said.
Well-known activist Naw Ohn Hla, who was handed a two-year sentence in August for causing public panic, was another of the more prominent inmates released under Friday’s deal.
She was detained in the region of Sagain in August for asking to protest a controversial copper mine in the area and the abrogation of the 2008 Constitution.
During his visit to France in July, Thein Sein pledged that his government will free all political prisoners by the end of the year.