13 Oct 2011

Myanmar regime frees 200 political prisoners

8:00 am on 13 October 2011

The government in Mynamar has released about 200 political prisoners but several hundred others remain behind bars.

A popular comedian and dissident, Zarganar, was among the first to be freed. Some monks and a journalist were also released.

The release has been welcomed by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and by European politicians.

The BBC reports it's the latest in a series of developments that suggest the new military-backed government is taking some steps towards reform.

But Amnesty International says the government must free more political detainees if it is seriously committed to reform.

The country's continued detention of about 2000 political prisoners is a crucial reason why Western nations maintain sanctions on Burma.

The detainees include journalists, pro-democracy activists, government critics, monks involved in anti-government protests and members of Burma's ethnic groups fighting for greater autonomy.

Zarganar was arrested in 2008 after publicly criticising the government response to Cyclone Nargis, which killed more than 140,000 people.