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Myanmar releases over 8,500 prisoners as compromise gesture

RIA Novosti

04/12/2007 12:46 MOSCOW, December 4 (RIA Novosti) - Myanmar has granted amnesty to 8,552 prisoners as a gesture of cooperation with the United Nations and to mark progress on writing a new constitution, state media announced.

The country's ruling military junta said on Monday it had started writing a national constitution, as part of Myanmar's "roadmap to democracy," which has been dismissed by Western powers as a scheme to keep the regime in power.

Myanmar's constitution was suspended almost 20 years ago when the military junta seized control of the Southeast Asian country.

The state Myanma Ahlin newspaper said the amnesty demonstrated "cooperation with the UN and the international community."

The official Light of Myanmar newspaper said the amnesty was granted "between 16 November and 3 December" and that "those released on 30 November included 33 Thai prisoners."

It said the decision marks "the successful holding of the National Convention in September," the start of work by the "Commission for Drafting the State Constitution," and the "the third stage of the seven-step Road Map."

Myanmar, also known as Burma, came under intense international pressure in September over the junta's violent crackdown on protests in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) led by Buddhist monks. At least 15 people were killed by security forces, and thousands were arrested in the weeks following the protests.

Around 80 anti-government protesters are still behind bars. The leadership has not specified whether any of these were included in the amnesty.


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