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Burma: Government Announces Amnesty

(Mar. 4, 2009) The Government of Myanmar (Burma) has reportedly announced an amnesty for 23 political prisoners. The news was welcomed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said, “[t]his is the time for Myanmar to seize the opportunity before it to send positive signals.” Ban was speaking at a meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar, which includes nations that neighbor Myanmar as well as other concerned countries. Ban also called for discussions to be held between the Government and opposition leaders “without delay and without preconditions” and for the release of additional political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner under house arrest. (Ban Welcomes Amnesty in Myanmar as “First Step” Toward Democratization, UN NEWS CENTRE, Feb. 23, 2009, available at

The political prisoners were freed as part of a general amnesty in which more than 6,000 prison inmates were given freedom. The move followed a visit to the country by United Nations human rights rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana. According to government-run media in Myanmar, the amnesty was done for the “social consideration” of the families of the former inmates and so that they can participate in the elections that have been scheduled for 2010. The elections are part of a seven-step path designed to lead to democracy for the Southeast Asian country, though critics of the regime have expressed doubts about the outcome of the process. (Political Prisoners Part of Myanmar's Release, MSNBC, Feb. 22, 2009, available at