YANGON, Myanmar: Thousands of prisoners released, had been granted freedom by the president,Thursday including Chinese workers sentenced to life in prison for illegal logging.
- Chinese loggers were arrested during a crackdown on illegal forestry activities in war-torn northern Kachin state, last January.
- Among them was, former Brig. Gen. Than Tun, who served as a liaison officer between the former military government and Aung San Suu Kyi, the pro-democracy leader who was then under house arrest.
Since Myanmar began emerging from decades of military rule in 2011,the announcement comes after the stiff logging sentences sharply raised tensions between the once closely-bonded neighbors whose ties have cooled.
President Thein Sein granted pardon were timed with a Buddhist religious holiday and come ahead of a November general election.
The polls have triggered criticism that the government is backsliding on political reforms it promised upon taking power in 2011. After given pardon by the president, the workers boarded and headed toward the border, where they were reunited with their families.
“We value the Myanmar government’s move, and we have had intensive communication with it to get the workers back,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
According to Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, “Myanmar informed China this morning that they will transfer the above-mentioned persons tomorrow”, adding that there had been “intense communication” between the two nations over the loggers.
Among the prisoners released are, eight former senior military intelligence officers.
Political expert on Southeast Asian studies said that efforts made by the Chinese government for the loggers’ release was one factor in resolving the situation. The other likely factor was the great importance Myanmar attaches to its relationship with China. Photo: Some prisoners are released from Insein Prison in Yangon, Myanmar. Credit: Khin Maung Win / Associated Press