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NEWS UPDATES 11 October 2010

Myanmar to free prisoners for vote

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Myanmar's military regime plans to release about 11,000 prisoners ahead of November elections, e to vote in the rare polls, officials said Sunday.

"We have plans to release some prisoners who are soon to complete their sentence," an official said on condition of anonymity. "We will reduce their sentence and release them in the coming days so that they can vote on election day."

It was not clear if Myanmar's political prisoners, numbering more than 2,200, would be included in the release, but a corrections department official said about 11,000 prisoners could be freed.

These included detainees whose sentences would already be over by polling day, as well as some early releases.

"The number could be more as we are still listing them," he added, without saying when the releases would begin.

There are usually more than 50,000 convicted criminals in Myanmar's 43 prisons and 100 labour sites at any one time, as well as about 6,000 awaiting trial, according to the privately-owned but state-censored Myanmar Times.

The detention of political dissidents, including democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has sparked condemnation from the international community and rights groups, who do not expect the upcoming election to be free or fair.

Suu Kyi, under house arrest in Yangon, won the country's last election 20 years ago but was not allowed to take office. She was barred from standing in this year's polls because she is a serving prisoner.

Her National League for Democracy subsequently boycotted the ballot, leading to the party being forcibly abolished.

The Nobel peace laureate's current term of detention is due to end on November 13, just days after the national elections, which critics say are aimed at simply entrenching the junta's power.

Raising confusion over her rights, Suu Kyi's name has been seen on the electoral roll, despite earlier statements that she would be barred. An official said she could vote but would not be allowed outside on election day.

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