At least 15 political prisoners were freed from Myanmar jails on Monday, activists said, following an announcement in state media that a total of 514 detainees would be released.
A spokesman for the democracy movement Generation 88 told AFP that those freed included eight dissidents from Yangon’s notorious Insein prison, while the rest were from other parts of the country.
Two foreign inmates — one Indian and one Chinese national — were also freed from Insein on Monday, Mr. Nay Win said.
Television news earlier reported that President Thein Sein “gives amnesty for a total of 514 prisoners” in a rare breaking news update.
It said the pardons were aimed at the “stability of the state and eternal peace, by respecting humanitarian grounds... and also to have friendship and goodwill in relations with neighbouring countries”.
The report, which said the release included “foreign prisoners from the prisons around the country”, comes a day before the Myanmar leader is set to embark on a visit China, followed by a trip to the United States, which has long called for the release of all jailed dissidents.
Estimates of the exact number of political detainees still locked up vary but Generation 88, which played a key part in a 1988 uprising against the former junta, has said around 300 activists languish in jails around the country.
Mr. Thein Sein will visit China until September 22 and is then set to embark on a trip to the United States to attend a United Nations General Assembly on September 24. — AFP