Burma releases over a dozen political prisoners
Burmese activists say more than a dozen political detainees have been released by the country's military regime as part of a general amnesty. The regime announced the release of over 6,000 inmates on Friday after the United Nations human rights rapporteur ended a five-day visit, which included meetings with a handful of political prisoners. Burmese activists said five Buddhist monks were among those freed, as well as six people affiliated with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, among other groups.
Chinese mine blast kills dozens
Chinese state media report that a gas explosion in a coal mine has killed at least 73 people and left another 65 trapped. Over a hundred casualties are being treated in hospital. The blast happened in the country's north, near Taiyuan, the provincial capital of Shanxi province. China's mining industry is the deadliest in the world, around 3,200 people died in mine accidents last year.
Australia mourns bushfire victims
Australians are holding a national day of mourning for the 209 people killed by wildfires earlier this month. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was joined by Britain's Princess Anne at the main ceremony in Melbourne, the state capital of Victoria, which was so badly hit by the fires. Addressing a 15,000-capacity stadium, in a nationally televised event, Rudd promised to help rebuild communities in which some 1,800 homes were destroyed. He also pledged that Australia would fly flags at half mast every February 7 to remember the victims of the so-called "Black Saturday" bushfires.