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Aung San Suu Kyi welcomes release of Myanmar prisoners

Soe Than Win / AFP - Getty Images

Family members of prisoners wait for their release outside the Insein central prison in Yangon, Myanmar, on October 12, as the authorities began releasing 6,359 prisoners as part of an amnesty.

Soe Zeya Tun / Reuters

A released prisoner hugs his crying mother in front of Insein Prison in Yangon on October 12.

Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, center, gives a speech to family members of political prisoners as Tin Oo, left, vice chairman of the National League for Democracy Party (NLD) and Win Tin, right, senior member of the NLD, attend a ceremony in Yangon on October 12. October 12 is the full moon day of Thidingyut (end of Buddhist Lent), a day when people traditionally pay homage to their elders.

 

Reuters reports from YANGON, Myanmar:

"I'm really thankful for the release of political prisoners," Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, herself freed from 15 years of house arrest last year, told supporters.

A senior prison official told Reuters a total of about 300 dissidents were freed on Wednesday.

After weeks of rare overtures, including a loosening of some media controls and more dialogue with Suu Kyi, the number was less than many had expected, raising questions over how soon and how fast the former British colony, also known as Burma, is willing to open up.

"It is disappointing," said Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International's Myanmar researcher based in Bangkok. "We had reason to expect, given the rather fast and qualitative steps that have taken place over the past several months, that today's release would be more substantial numerically than these preliminary reports are telling us." Read the full report.

Earlier on PhotoBlog:

Myanmar begins to open up after half a century of iron-fisted rule and releases 300 political prisoners. Msnbc.com's Dara Brown reports.