Myanmar frees 56 political prisoners
published : 8 Oct 2013 at 14:52
Myanmar released 56 political prisoners Tuesday as peace talks began with a rebel group in the northern Kachin state.
Eighteen of those released were Kachin rebels who have been fighting against government rule, said Hla Maung Shwe, a member of a government-appointed committee on political prisoners.
The Kachin are among several minority groups fighting for independence or greater autonomy in the multi-ethnic country.
"Most of the 56 prisoners released today are members of ethnic organisations," said Aung Min, a minister from the president's office.
The government on Tuesday started peace talks with the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) in state capital Myitkyina.
The KIO has so far refused to sign a ceasefire agreement proposed by the government and has first demanded political dialogue, saying it is the only way to bring about a sustainable peace.
On a visit to Britain in June, President Thein Sein vowed to release all remaining political prisoners by the end of this year. But ongoing political strife and disagreements over what constitutes a political prisoner are raising some doubts about the significance of that commitment.
The government has released hundred of political prisoners since Thein Sein took office in March 2011. In July, 73 political prisoners were freed under an amnesty.
The president was due to fly to Brunei for an Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) summit later Tuesday.