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Myanmar’s president pardons political prisoners

Updated at: 12/11/2013 7:35 AM
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(AP) YANGON, Myanmar - Myanmar’s president on Wednesday pardoned more than three dozen political prisoners, coinciding with the country’s hosting of the Southeast Asian Games.

Maj. Zaw Htay, the director of the president’s office, said on his Facebook page that 41 people whose names were submitted by the official Political Prisoner Scrutiny Committee were among 44 prisoners released. The other three were child soldiers, he said.

He did not explain why the child soldiers had been detained. Some illegal ethnic rebel groups have used child soldiers, as has the government army, which recently has moved to stop the practice.

Early reports had described all 44 who were released as political prisoners.

The majority of the political prisoners freed were activists charged under a peaceful assembly law that sets a maximum one-year prison term to people who protest without official permission.

Bo Kyi, a member of the Political Prisoner Scrutiny Committee, said about 50 political prisoners remained detained, while around 200 other people were still facing political charges that could see them jailed. More than 1,000 political prisoners had been previously freed under President Thein Sein’s reformist government, which came to power in 2011 after almost five decades of military rule.

The continued detention of political prisoners in Myanmar has been a concern of the United States and other Western nations that want to promote the country’s transition to democracy.

Myanmar is using the Southeast Asian Games, which run from Dec. 1-22, to showcase its transformation from international outcast to fledgling democracy.

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)