A total of 46 prisoners will be freed in Myanmar to aid "national reconciliation", state media said on Tuesday amid growing calls for the release of the country's remaining political detainees. A report in the New Light of Myanmar said 37 men and nine women would be set free starting Tuesday, although it was unclear if any of the remaining political prisoners -- estimated to be in the hundreds -- were among them.
The decision was made "with a view to ensuring the stability of the State and making eternal peace, national reconciliation, enabling all to participate in political process," the report said.
It came shortly after a Myanmar minister pledged further amnesties for jailed dissidents during a high profile European tour by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi last month.
"We are not quite sure how many political prisoners are among them," said Suu Kyi, who was herself freed from seven straight years of house arrest in 2010 and has since become an elected politician amid wide-ranging reforms in a nation long dominated by the military.
Myanmar freed more than 300 political prisoners in January, a move which prompted the United States to pledge it would restore full diplomatic ties. About 200 others were let out in October 2011.
At a press conference in Yangon on Tuesday, Suu Kyi said her party estimates there are 330 political prisoners still behind bars, although other groups put the number higher.
The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners says that more than 900 dissidents remain in jail, while the pro-democracy 88 Generation Students Group, whose key members were at the forefront of a 1988 uprising, puts the figure above 600.
Suu Kyi used her long-awaited acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway last month to call for the release of Myanmar's remaining political prisoners, warning of the risk that "the unknown ones will be forgotten".
Days later Industry Minister Soe Thane told AFP in Oslo that the government was considering releasing "the rest of the people" and was reviewing cases to ensure no-one guilty of a violent crime was set free.
Myanmar, which languished for decades under a repressive junta, has announced a series of reforms since a controversial 2010 election brought a civilian government to power -- albeit one with close links to the military.
Reforms, including dissident releases and welcoming Suu Kyi and her party to the political mainstream, have led to tough Western sanctions being loosened and raised hopes of more steps towards democracy.
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