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October 27, 2007

MYANMAR: Politics
Junta frees prisoners

Military-run Myanmar has freed about 80 people, including members of Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party, who were detained after the junta's bloody crackdown on dissent, a party official said Friday.

Among the group are more than 50 members of the National League for Democracy, which is headed by the Nobel peace laureate, who has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest, said NLD spokesman Nyan Win.

They were released Thursday from Myanmar's notorious Insein prison, home to some of the country's estimated 1,100 political prisoners. Rights groups have alleged abuse and torture are rampant in the jail.

About 13 Buddhist monks were also among those freed. Monks led anti-junta rallies that began in August following a massive hike in fuel prices and grew into the biggest challenge to the iron-fisted regime in nearly two decades.

But authorities violently put down peaceful protests in Yangon in late September, killing at least 13 people and detaining more than 2,100.

The junta's clampdown sparked global outrage, with the United States and the European Union tightening sanctions against the country's top military rulers.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win also said the party's senior executive, Hla Pe, in his 80s, was among those released on Thursday.

Amid mounting global pressure on the junta, the regime held a rare meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon Thursday in a move seen as a bid to deflect criticism of its crackdown on protesters before top UN envoys visit.

Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the UN special rapporteur on human rights, and UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari are expected to visit Myanmar next month to call for more dialogue between the junta and Aung San Suu Kyi.

The UN envoys are also expected to press Myanmar, under military rule since 1962, to free all political prisoners.

Courtesy The Inquirer

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