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Annan Welcomes Myanmar Prisoner Release

Annan Welcomes Myanmar Prisoner Release, Urges Freeing All Political Detainees

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today welcomed an announcement by the Myanmar Government that it has begun releasing nearly 4,000 prisoners and called for freeing all others detained for their political beliefs.

In a statement issued by his spokesman, Mr. Annan said he was encouraged by reports that a number of people detained for political activities were included among the 3,937 prisoners whose forthcoming release the Government announced yesterday.

Over the past several years Mr. Annan has been pushing the Government of the South Asian country to include opposition parties such as the National League for Democracy (NLD) in a democratic transition, and most recently has been urging it to allow his Special Envoy Razali Ismail to visit again as soon as possible.

In an interim report to the General Assembly in September the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, said the situation had not improved, with large numbers of people in detention, harsh sentences for peaceful political activities and restrictions on the operations of opposition parties.

"The Secretary-General considers the release an important step towards creating an environment conducive to genuine national reconciliation in Myanmar," today's statement added.

"He hopes that this step will be followed by the release of the remainder of those detained for articulating their political beliefs, including all those who are still under house arrest," it concluded.

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