September 23, 2008 / 4:58 AM / 11 years ago

"Loving" Myanmar junta frees 9,002 prisoners

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar’s junta is releasing 9,002 prisoners as a gesture of “loving kindness and goodwill,” official media said on Tuesday, although political detainees are unlikely to be on the list.

“We haven’t heard of any political prisoners being freed,” said Nyan Win, a spokesman for the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), whose leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has been under house arrest for the last five years.

“I do hope they will be released, but I don’t think it will happen.”

Myanmar, or Burma as it used to be called, has more than 2,000 people behind bars on account of their political or religious beliefs, human rights groups say.

The junta, which has ruled unchecked since 1962, denies the existence of any political prisoners, saying all detainees have committed crimes.

Official newspapers said the prisoners were being released for the “social consideration of their families” and to take part in elections scheduled for 2010, part of a seven-step “roadmap to democracy.” Western governments dismiss the roadmap as a charade.

Reporting by Aung Hla Tun; Writing by Ed Cropley; Editing by Alan Raybould

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