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Freed Myanmar pro-democracy activists vow to carry on political work

Freed Myanmar pro-democracy activists vow to carry on political work

Five prominent political activists whom Myanmar's military regime detained in September were freed Thursday, and vowed to carry on with their push for democratic reforms.
The country's pro-democracy movement welcomed the releases, and said it hopes more will soon follow.
Their release at about 1:30 a.m. Thursday, followed the United States' introduction this week of a U.N. resolution calling on Myanmar to free all political prisoners.
It also came hours after a new call for political freedoms in Myanmar by foreign ministers of other Southeast Asian countries at a regional meeting in the Philippines.
The freed activists _ Min Ko Naing, Ko Ko Gyi, Htay Kywe, Min Zeya and Pyone Cho _ had been taken in for questioning but were not formally charged with any offense.
Myint Thein, a National League for Democracy party spokesman, said he hoped NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi will also be freed.
"Since the release is done with good intentions, it is important that more constructive steps are taken by releasing ... Aung San Suu Kyi, U Tin Oo and all political prisoners," Myint Thein said. Tin Oo is Suu Kyi's deputy.
"Problems can be solved only by releasing all political prisoners, including ... Aung San Suu Kyi," Min Ko Naing told reporters at his home.
Min Ko Naing, accompanied by the other four ex-detainees, said they will continue with their "peaceful struggle" to achieve democracy and national reconciliation.
They said they owed their freedom and gratitude to the work of local and international sympathizers.
The junta took power after violently suppressing 1988 pro-democracy demonstrations. It held an election in 1990, but refused to cede power when the NLD won.
Suu Kyi was then under house arrest, and has been for much of the time since 1989. Her freedom is a major demand of many Western countries and the U.N.
The foreign powers want human rights abuses ended in Myanmar, and want power turned over to a democratically elected government as soon as possible.
The freed activists are members of the 88 Generation Students' Group, which comprises student leaders who were active in the 1988 popular uprising.
Htay Kywe said by phone just after his release that the five activists had been questioned about bombings and alleged foreign financial assistance, but were treated well.
Min Ko Naing denied government allegations that they are linked to terrorism and receive foreign funding.
He said the authorities apparently locked them up suspecting they were going to try to disrupt a continuing National Convention to draft guidelines for a new constitution.
The convention is the first step on the ruling junta's seven-stage "road map to democracy," which is supposed to lead to free elections at an unspecified future date.
The latest session opened in October and closed at the end of December.
On Jan. 3, 2,831 prisoners _ about 40 of them political _ were freed under an Independence Day amnesty.
Efforts to persuade Myanmar to democratize gained a new urgency Tuesday, when the U.S. government introduced a U.N. resolution calling the deteriorating situation there a serious risk to regional peace, and urging Myanmar to immediately free all political prisoners.
The U.S. Campaign for Burma, a Washington-based group that lobbies for measures to pressure Myanmar to make democratic reforms, issued a statement calling the prisoner release a trick played under the pressure of international disapproval. Burma, Myanmar's old name, is still preferred by many opponents of the junta.
"This looks like nothing but a cynical ploy to stop the U.N. Security Council from taking action," said the group's policy director, Aung Din.
"The international community shouldn't allow these prisoners to be used as hostages, he said.


Updated : 2021-10-16 12:46 GMT+08:00