YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar on Tuesday pledged to release thousands of prisoners a month before a Southeast Asian summit, which U.S. President Barack Obama and other leaders from outside the region are expected to attend.
President Thein Sein pardoned 3,073 prisoners for the sake of “peace and stability” and “the rule of law”, the government said on the Information Ministry website.
The government did not identify the prisoners but virtually all of them were believed to have been jailed for ordinary crimes, not for their political activity.
The non-governmental group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said the amnesty did not include any political prisoners
“I heard there were six or seven former senior military intelligence officials, but they are not considered political prisoners,” said Bo Kyi of the AAPP.
Some military intelligence agency officers were imprisoned a decade ago during a purge by the former ruling military.
The group of former intelligence officials granted amnesty appeared to include Brigadier General Thein Swe who was jailed at that time.
“Having a top day with great news. I’m heading to Myingyan to pick up my dad,” said his son Myat Swe on his Facebook page, referring to a prison near the central city of Mandalay.
The government said there were 58 foreigners among those granted amnesty but it did not say where they were from.
The amnesty is one of at least a dozen announced by the reformist, quasi-civilian government that took over in March 2011 from the military.
It has attempted to bolster its reformist credentials by releasing political prisoners, often shortly before diplomatic meetings and summits.
While many political prisoners have been released the AAPP says about 75 remain in detention.
Editing by Nick Macfie and Robert Birsel