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Myanmar freeing 46 prisoners; Suu Kyi wants more

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to the media during a press conference at the National League for Democracy Party headquarters in Yangon on July 3, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Ye Aung Thu

YANGON, Myanmar: Back from her triumphant tour of Europe, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi stepped up calls Tuesday for the release of hundreds of political prisoners still behind bars.

Suu Kyi's comments came in response to a state newspaper's report that President Thein Sein has granted amnesty to 46 prisoners who were expected to be freed from prisons later Tuesday.

More than 20 of those receiving amnesty are prisoners of conscience, said Ko Ko Gyi, a prominent former political prisoner. Among them are former student activist Aye Aung, who was serving a 59-year sentence for distributing pamphlets and taking part in a protest during a 1998 pro-democracy uprising.

"We are very happy that our fellow political prisoners are being released," Ko Ko Gyi told The Associated Press. "However, we will continue to work for the release of all political prisoners."

Human Rights Watch says at least 659 political prisoners, many of them well known, have been released over the past year as part of Myanmar's startling series of reforms.

Estimates by human rights groups of the number of political prisoners who remain in Myanmar government custody range from about 200 to about 600. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy opposition party says the number is 330.

"We will call for the release of all 330 political prisoners," Suu Kyi, the country's most famous former political prisoner, said at a news conference. It was her first public appearance since returning from her two-week tour of Europe, her first overseas journey in 24 years.

The state-run New Light of Myanmar reported Tuesday that 37 men and nine women were being freed.

It said the decision had been made on humanitarian grounds "with a view to ensuring the stability of the state and making eternal peace (and) national reconciliation."

 

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