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Myanmar regime frees more oppositio

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 
told AFP.

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 
and signboards.

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.