By Christine Tjandraningsih and Myat Thura
NUSA DUA, Indonesia, Nov. 19, Kyodo
Myanmar’s President Thein Sein has decided to release all political prisoners in the country, his chief political adviser said Saturday.
”For the release of the prisoners, it’s already in the mind of the president,” Thein Sein’s Chief Political Adviser Ko Ko Hlaing told Kyodo News in an interview on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit.
The president believes that political prisoners should be released ”sooner rather than later,” Hlaing said.
According to Hlaing, Thein Sein has said Myanmar needs ”all the citizens’ hands to make a new nation” and he has invited Myanmarese living in exile to return to help build a new country.
”So why are we maintaining these people in jail? It’s a waste of time, a waste of money and a waste of people,” Hlaing said.
The Myanmar government released about 230 political detainees last month. No further amnesty has been announced, however, prompting speculation that internal dissent is deepening within the government on how to proceed with political reforms.
Hlaing said Myanmar’s Ministry of Home Affairs data show there were over 500 political prisoners in the country’s jails prior to last month’s amnesty and about 300 politicians are still locked up in prisons.
Earlier on Saturday, Thein Sein had a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon over breakfast in Bali.
”We discussed about better cooperation between Myanmar and the United Nations,” Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin told reporters after the meeting.
Asked whether there is a plan for the U.N. chief to visit Myanmar, Maung Lwin said, ”There would be, but we are trying to find (a) mutually convenient time.”
Thursday, Southeast Asian leaders attending the ASEAN summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali approved Myanmar’s chairmanship of the grouping in 2014, on the grounds that significant political changes have taken place in Myanmar.
In 2006, Myanmar agreed to forgo its turn for the rotating chairmanship because some ASEAN members at the time feared that the then junta-led government’s chairmanship would affect ASEAN’s international standing.
U.S. President Barack Obama said Friday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Myanmar next month, the first visit by a U.S. secretary of state in more than 50 years.
U.S. officials said Clinton will arrive in Myanmar on Dec. 1 for a two-day stay, during which she will visit Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw and its largest city Yangon, and meet with President Thein Sein and other senior government officials, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and civil society representatives.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.