Myanmar frees 44 political prisoners

Myanmar frees 44 political prisoners

YANGON - Myanmar on Wednesday freed 44 political detainees, a presidential adviser said, the latest in a series of prisoner amnesties by the country's reformist regime.

There are still thought to be dozens of activists behind bars in Myanmar, which has won international acclaim for dramatic changes since the end of outright military rule nearly three years ago.

"In total 44 political prisoners have been released around the country today," Hla Maung Shwe told AFP.

Hundreds of dissidents have been freed since 2011 and President Thein Sein has pledged to release all prisoners of conscience by the end of the year.

The former general, who took power in March 2011, has earned plaudits and the removal of most western sanctions for reforms that have included freeing hundreds of critics detained under the previous junta.

Under his leadership, the nation has undergone huge changes including the election of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament.

But campaigners say authorities continue to prosecute dissidents under legislation that is either old or does not meet international standards, particularly for protesting without permission.

About 44 more political detainees are still in jail, according to Bo Kyi of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).

He said a further 200 activists are awaiting trial, some of whom are locked up.

"The government should create rule of law and space for demonstration," said Bo Kyi, who is a member of a government-appointed committee tasked with identifying political prisoners.

"As long as there are arbitrary detentions, there will be political prisoners."

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