Burma political prisoners to be pardoned

File photo: Thein Sein Thein Sein has introduced major reforms since becoming president in 2010

Burma is set to free several political prisoners after the government announced a presidential pardon.

It is not clear how many prisoners will be released, but activists say there are still around 40 political prisoners in the country.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has freed hundreds of political detainees since steps towards democracy began in 2010.

President Thein Sein has pledged to release all prisoners of conscience by the end of 2013.

"All prisoners who have been sentenced [under the following laws] are pardoned," the government announcement, which was televised late on Monday, said.

"All ongoing cases at the courts will be closed and all accused must be freed immediately."

The amnesty covers people convicted of or charged with unlawful association, high treason, contempt of government and violating the peaceful assembly law, AP news agency reported.

Rights groups had accused Burma's former military government of wrongfully imprisoning about 2,000 political opponents, dissidents and journalists.

President Thein Sein has introduced major reforms since the elections of November 2010, which saw military rule replaced by a military-backed civilian government.

Many political prisoners have been freed and media restrictions have been relaxed, while the opposition has rejoined the political process.

In response, most international sanctions against Burma have been relaxed.

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