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Friday, November 16, 2012
International

452 prisoners freed in Myanmar

Myanmar pardoned hundreds of prisoners yesterday under a mass amnesty criticised by pro-democracy activists as a cynical ploy to curry favour ahead of a landmark visit by US President Barack Obama.

Officials said 452 prisoners would walk free, but by the late afternoon rights groups said they were not aware of the release of any of the scores dissidents still languishing in jail.

Obama will on Monday become the first sitting US president to visit Myanmar, where he will meet former general President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's most famous former political prisoner.

The last major amnesty in September saw dozens of dissidents freed just before a historic visit to the United Nations in New York by Thein Sein. But many political prisoners were left behind bars to the dismay of democracy campaigners.

Estimates of their number vary but the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners put the current figure at 283 in a list posted on its website on October 31.

The group said it had not heard of any dissidents freed yesterday.

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