The release of 651 prisoners has been hailed by Christians as a “positive and significant sign of progress” in Burma.
The prisoners include political dissidents involved in the student protest movement in 1988 and monks who took part in the 2007 demonstrations against the military regime.
Those released included Min Ko Naing, a prominent leader of the failed 1988 uprising who spent more than twenty years in prison.
The announcement was made on Burmese State TV and comes a day after a historic ceasefire agreement between the government and Karen minority rebels to end sixy years of fighting over the region's desire for greater autonomy.
There is speculation that the prisoner release has taken the country closer to the lifting of European Union sanctions.
Benedict Rogers, East Asia team leader at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, urged the Burmese government to release all remaining political prisoners and allow those released to freely participate in the political process.
He called for an end to other human rights violations in the country, including forced labour, torture, religious persecution, and the use of human minesweepers.
“Burma today moved a step closer towards the change we want to see, but there is still further to go and we encourage President Thein Sein to continue along this path and establish genuine peace and freedom in the country," he said.
Burma prisoner release a ‘sign of progress’
Published 13 January 2012