Suu Kyi’s party urges junta to free prisoners

Associated Press

Yangon, January 4:

The main opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi marked Myanmar’s independence day today by urging the country’s military rulers to free all political prisoners, while the junta used the occasion to tell people to be loyal. The ruling generals released 5,588 detainees from various prisons on Sunday ahead of the 57th independence day. Those freed included eight members of Suu Kyi’s party and nine other political prisoners.

Among the prisoners released was a journalist, Zaw Thet Htwe, 38, who was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to death after being convicted of high treason.

His sentence was later reduced to three years to life. It was not immediately clear why he was released early. In a statement to mark the anniversary, Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy urged the release of more than 130 party members still in detention.

The junta today also released a statement heavy on nationalism that gave no suggestion that more detainees would be freed. “The nation was strong and developed when there was national unity and it was weak and in backwardness when unity among the nationalities disintegrated,” the statement by junta Chairman Gen Than Shwe said. “It is the duty of the people to bear in their hearts a positive attitude and to play an active part with the full sense of Union spirit.” The impoverished nation’s military rulers marked the day with a flag-raising ceremony.