|Pro-democracy activist Htay Kywe was among those released from prison yesterday in Burma.|
From Irrawaddy.com (full story here):
Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Htay Kywe, Mya Aye and Nilar Thein are among 650 prisoners released on Friday under a new presidential pardon.
Family members of political prisoners told The Irrawaddy on Friday that they were informed by the authorities that their relatives are on the list of freed prisoners. It was also reported that former Burma spy chief Khin Nyunt and intelligent official ex-Col San Pwint have also been released, as were ethnic political prisoners including Hkun Htun Oo and prominent Buddhist monk U Gambira, who was an organizer of the 2007 'Saffron Revolution.” Journalists including Zaw Thet Htwe were also freed.
Speaking with The Irrawaddy on Friday from outside Thayawady prison, Nilar Thein, said, “I’m happy, and I will be very happy to see my family. We will get involved in democratic reform with Auntie [Aung San Suu Kyi].”
“The reforms introduced by President Thein Sein and Auntie Suu are what we have so long been waiting for. But we have to work harder for the remaining colleagues who are still in prison. If all of them are released, that will be a beautiful image for all of us,” she said.
Amnesties under the new government that freed more than 27,000 convicts since last May were disappointing as they included only 200 or so political detainees. The current estimate of political prisoners ranges from about 600 to 1,500, though the government insists no one falls into the category because they are simply criminal convicts.
The government TV announcement read on Thursday: “For the sake of state peace and stability, national consolidation and to enable everyone to participate in political process and on humanitarian grounds, the government will grant amnesty to 651 prisoners so that they can take part in nation building.”
But as more than a thousand political prisoners may remain behind bars, many of whom are prisoners of conscience, the amnesty must continue until all are freed according to Amnesty International.
"This release of political prisoners is a major step forward, but more must be released," said T. Kumar, Amnesty International USA's director of international advocacy. There were high expectations that all political prisoners would be released following Secretary Hillary Clinton's landmark visit to Myanmar in December 2011. Yet, more than a month has passed, and there may be more than one thousand political prisoners still in custody. Secretary Clinton should insist that all prisoners of conscience be released immediately and urge the Burmese authorities to lift any conditions attached to the released prisoners."