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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 November, 2004, 17:41 GMT
Burma frees thousands from jail
Ousted Prime Minister Khin Nyunt
Nyunt's former powerbase is being dismantled
Burma's military leaders have begun releasing nearly 4,000 prisoners said to have been wrongly imprisoned.

State media announced on Thursday that the detentions had been ruled "improper" following the disbanding of the National Intelligence Bureau.

The bureau had been headed by former prime minister Khin Nyunt, who was ousted last month amid accusations of corruption and insubordination.

It is not known whether any of those freed were political prisoners.

State radio said 3,937 prisoners were being released from jails throughout the country but did not provide a timetable.

"It is concluded that the National Intelligence Bureau may have used irregular and improper means to put them into prison," state radio reported.

Consolidation

Khin Nyunt, who is under house arrest, was removed from power on 19 October by Than Shwe, head of the junta, in what was seen as a consolidation of his power.

Government hardliners had disapproved of Khin Nyunt's liberal leadership particularly over its dealings with the pro-democracy movement.

Within days, the intelligence bureau, which gave officers loyal to Khin Nyunt widespread powers, was abolished.

Amnesty International estimates that there were 1,350 political detainees in 2004, many associated with Aung Sang Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.

The junta has never admitted to holding political prisoners.

However, under pressure from the international community, it freed some detainees in small groups in 2002 and 2003, citing "humanitarian" reasons.


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