Myanmar frees 6,966 prisoners ahead of polls

File photo: Peace activist Yan Naing Tun talks to the media after his release in front of Insein prison in Yangon, 31 December 2013 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Myanmar has issued several amnesties for prisoners in recent years

Myanmar has pardoned and released 6,966 prisoners, including 210 foreigners, the government says.

The amnesties, which the information ministry says the president issued "on humanitarian grounds", come ahead of general elections in November.

It is not clear if Burmese political prisoners were among those freed.

More than 150 Chinese loggers, whose detention had angered Beijing, were among those released, Chinese state media said.

It is the latest in a series of amnesties brought about by the government in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

President Thein Sein, who won power in 2010 in elections which saw military rule replaced with a military-backed civilian government, has pledged to release all political prisoners.

Most political prisoners in Myanmar have already been released as part of the reform process.

However, there are thought to be more than 150 political prisoners still being held, the Irrawaddy news site reported, citing the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Those freed on Thursday included eight former military intelligence officers who were jailed in 2004, AP news agency reported.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Officials said President Thein Sein issued the pardons on humanitarian grounds

The 210 foreigners freed are expected to be deported, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Myanmar had jailed the 155 Chinese nationals for illegal logging last week, with China's foreign ministry expressing concern over the severity of the sentences.

One-hundred-and-fifty-three of the Chinese nationals had been given life sentences, which usually last 20 years, for illegal logging, while two 17-year-old boys had been given 10-year jail terms.

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