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Myanmar eases iron-fisted rule, begins releasing political prisoners

Nyein Chan Naing / EPA

Women prisoners react as they are released from the notorious Insein prison in Yangon, Myanmar, on October 12. Myanmar's state media said the government was going to release 6,359 prisoners 'for the sake of the nation,' with some prisoners of conscience expected to be among those amnestied.

Khin Maung Win / AP

Male prisoners walk out of Insein Prison in Yangon on Oct. 12. The releases began around the country Wednesday morning after President Thein Sein issued an amnesty for 6,359 prisoners a day earlier.

Nyein Chan Naing / EPA

A man welcomes his friend, just released from the notorious Insein prison in Yangon on Oct. 12.

Reuters reports from YANGON, Myanmar:

Myanmar freed at least 300 political prisoners including several prominent dissidents on Wednesday, leaving as many as 2,000 behind bars, as one of the world's most reclusive states begins to open up after half a century of iron-fisted rule.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to Reuters before a general amnesty for 6,359 prisoners including political detainees, said she was encouraged by "promising signals" of reform but that it was too early to announce steps Washington might take in response.

The United States, Europe and Australia have said freeing Myanmar's estimated 2,100 political prisoners is essential to even considering lifting sanctions that have crippled the pariah state and, over years, driven it closer to China. Continue reading.