Under a mass amnesty, the government of Burma has begun freeing thousands of prisoners from its jails, the latest in a series of actions and reforms that could improve the tightly-controlled nation's ties with the international community. Officials promised the release, which coincides with a Buddhist holiday, will eventually include 6,359 men and women who are elderly, ailing or disabled, and those "who have served an appropriate sentence and have shown progress in behavior and discipline."
Burma's leaders typically grant a prison amnesty once or twice a year. In May, President Thein Sein announced the release of 20,000 prisoners, commuted death sentences and reduced all jail terms by one year. Only about 45 of those released were considered political prisoners, however, and the number of political activists and other prisoners of conscience included in the current release is unclear. The Government of Burma has not published a comprehensive name list of those released.
Aid groups and human rights organizations estimate that about 2,200 men and women are being held in Burma's jails on political charges, often in poor conditions and subjected to cruel treatment.
The United States welcomes the Burmese Government’s release of any political prisoners and will carefully follow the total number and identities of political prisoners has released in this amnesty. While noting some positive developments in Burma - including substantive dialogue between pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and government officials -- the United States hopes this recent release is only the beginning of a time-bound process that results in the unconditional release of all political prisoners, which the United States, the international community, Burmese citizens, and Burma’s recently established Human Rights Commission have long called for.