Mr Min Ko Naing

Aung San Suu Kyi

The Myanmar government said that it had released 302 political prisoners whose release has been sought by National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Home Minister Lieutenant-General Ko Ko told reporters that they were freed so that they could play a role in the political process. Some analysts said that the freed political prisoners may be allowed to run for Parliament despite their prison records, one of the demands of rights groups such as Human Rights Watch.

Rights groups put the number of political prisoners at 2,100. Mr Ko Ko told UN special rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana in August that the number was 600 or about 400 after the 12 October 2011 amnesty. Mr Min Ko Niang, a prominent student leader from the failed 1988

Khun Tun Oo

pro-democracy uprising, was one of those released. Also freed was ethnic leader Khun Tun Oo, the chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, who was serving a 93-year sentence. Former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt was also freed after more than seven years under house arrest, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma, a news outlet run by exiles.

Western governments welcomed the move and the United States, which had made freeing of prisoners a precondition for lifting of economic sanctions, said that it will begin the process of exchanging full ambassadors for the first time in 20 years. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wanted more: the release of all remaining political prisoners, ending violence in ethnic areas and cutting military ties to North Korea.

With these present moves, Myanmar is well poised to take the Chair of ASEAN in 2014.