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Release of Myanmar political prison

Subject: Release of Myanmar political prisoners.


17 MARCH 1995.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Gareth Evans, today said that the
release from gaol on 15 March of U Tin Oo and U Kyi Maung, leaders of the
National League for Democracy (NLD), was potentially very welcome, especially
given recent negative developments in that country.  Senator Evans said he
could not give an unqualified welcome until it was clear that there were no
unacceptable conditions placed on their release:  the Australian Embassy in
Yangon was seeking to clarify this issue.

U Tin Oo and U Kyi Maung were, respectively, the Chairman and 
spokesperson of the NLD, which led the struggle for democracy in Myanmar 
in 1988-89.  Both were detained in 1989 and subsequently sentenced to 
extended periods of imprisonment.  They were released under an amnesty, 
along with 29 other political prisoners, to mark the 50th anniversary of 
Myanmar's Armed Forces.

Senator Evans  hoped that this amnesty signified a change in policy on 
the part of Myanmar's authorities.  In the last few months, the trend of 
developments in that country had been disturbing.  The National 
Convention, charged with writing a new Constitution, was making very 
little progress.  NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi remained under 
detention, despite the possibility that she might have been released last 
January.  The recent offensive against the Karen National Union forces, 
leading to the fall of Manerplaw and other bases, went against the 
regime's own policies of national reconciliation.  Against this 
background, the release of these political prisoners - although many other
political prisoners remain in gaol, often under extremely harsh 
conditions -seems to strike a more positive tone.

Senator Evans called on the Myanmar Government to take further positive 
steps, including an early resumption of the dialogue with Aung San Suu 
Kyi and her release, along with all other political prisoners.  He said 
that the international community was closely scrutinising developments in 
Myanmar, both positive and negative, and would respond to them in a 
measured way as appropriate.