Yangon: Myanmar will release 651 prisoners starting Friday under a new presidential pardon, but it's unknown if political detainees will be freed.
Myanmar state radio and television said Thursday evening the prisoners would be freed so they can participate in the task of nation-building. It did not identify them, but that description could be construed to apply to political prisoners.
The release of political prisoners is eagerly anticipated as Myanmar's military-backed but elected government continues reforms begun when it took office last year.
Amnesties under the new government that freed more than 27,000 convicts since last May were disappointing as they included only a few hundred of as many as 2,000 political detainees.
The freedom of political prisoners is a key demand of the United States and other countries for lifting sanctions imposed on Myanmar for the repressive policies of its previous military regime.
First Published: Thursday, January 12, 2012, 20:45