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Myanmar regime frees more oppositio
- Subject: Myanmar regime frees more oppositio
- From: darnott@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 01:23:00
Agence France Presse
June 15, 2001, Friday 6:15 AM, Eastern Time
Myanmar regime frees more opposition figures
YANGON, June 15
Myanmar's military junta has released another prominent leader of the
democratic opposition along with seven other political prisoners following
a recent visit by UN envoy Razali Ismail, an opposition source said Friday.
Saw Mra Aung, a high-ranking opposition figure and close affiliate of the
National League for Democracy (NLD), was freed late Thursday with seven
others political prisoners who included three MPs of the NLD, the source
Saw Mra Aung had been appointed speaker of parliament by a committee led by
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the aftermath of the NLD's
overwhelming election victory in 1990, which the junta failed to honour.
He was originally a member of the now-defunct Union Nationalities League
for Democracy, a grouping of some 20 minority ethnic parties.
NLD parliamentarians Han Zaw, Maung Aung and Myint Thein were also released
on Thursday night.
Among the others released was Htwe Myint, an elderly opposition figure who
years ago urged Aung San Suu Kyi to join the political fray. He was
reported to be ill while under military arrest.
As many as 70 other opposition MPs are believed to remain under house
arrest or in prison under the military regime.
Sources in Yangon say further releases appear likely.
The group represents the second release since Razali visited Yangon on June
1-4 in a bid to give new impetus to the national reconciliation process.
On Wednesday, one of Myanmar's best known political prisoners, journalist
and opposition leader Soe Thein, was freed just days after the departure of
a UN mission.
So far, most NLD activists who finished their prison terms have found
themselves remaining behind bars, with their sentences extended.
Razali's previous visits had been marked by the release of political
prisoners, and the NLD had been counting on additional releases --
particularly of old and sick detainees -- following his latest mission.
The NLD said before his arrival that it expected the trip to be marked with
the release of sick and elderly prisoners as a goodwill gesture from the
junta which last October began initial talks with Aung San Suu Kyi.
She is believed to have demanded that the junta begin releasing prisoners,
and allow the party to reopen its offices around the country, before the
contacts develop into a full-blown dialogue.
The NLD source also said Thursday that the opposition now had plans to
revive party activities by reopening 18 township offices and erecting flags
In 1990, the NLD won 392 of 485 parliament seats but the assembly has never
been allowed to meet.
At Razali's behest, the military junta opened last October high-level talks
with the Nobel Peace prize winner for the first time since 1994, aimed at
achieving "national reconciliation."
So far, the two sides have voluntarily refrained from commenting on the
nature and substance of their contacts, with Razali remaining quiet on the
The international community has been waiting for a concrete sign of the
junta's goodwill, such as large-scale releases of political prisoners --
believed to number at least 1,700 -- before the next UN general assembly
meeting in September.
Razali is to visit Yangon again in July.