Myanmar releases 69 political prisoners

Myanmar's government announced Friday the release of 69 political prisoners from 18 different jails across the country, under the latest amnesty to be granted by reformist President Thein Sein.

Thein Sein pledged to the international community in July that there would be no political prisoners in Myanmar by the end of the year.

The prisoners being released within the day are mostly members or supporters of ethnic rebel groups.

They also include people jailed for protesting against government land grabs and Chinese-backed natural resource projects, as well as two grandsons of Myanmar's late dictator Gen. Ne Win, who ruled the country after staging a military coup in 1962 until he was forced out in a popular nationwide uprising in 1988.

The two men, Kyaw Ne Win and Aye Ne Win, were initially sentenced to death, together with their father and younger brother, in 2002 for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government. Their sentences were later commuted to life in prison. Their father and the younger brother were pardoned in 2012.

Nearly 30,000 prisoners, hundreds of them having been jailed for their political activities, have been released on 12 separate occasions since Thein Sein became president in 2011.

The latest release coincides with the launch in the capital Naypyitaw of a European Union-Myanmar Task Force by Thein Sein and visiting EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who participated in its plenary session Friday.

In a joint statement at the meeting, the two sides pledged to "work together for a democratic and prosperous Myanmar in which diversity and respect for human rights contributes to a dynamic society, in which democracy brings inclusion of all political and ethnic groups on an equal footing, and in which an open and stable political community makes Myanmar a magnet for foreign investment and job creation."