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UN and U.S. Welcome Release of Political Prisoners in Burma - 2002-11-22


The Burmese military government on Wednesday said it will begin releasing 115 political prisoners serving sentences for breach of law including individuals belonging to the National League for Democracy (NLD) Party and security detainees on Thursday (November 22).

The Government spokesman Hla Min said, "Because of steady progress in national reconciliation, we continue to release more individuals who will cause no harm to the community nor threaten the existing peace, stability and unity of the nation.”

The UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed the announcement. At a daily noon press briefing at New York UN headquarters on 21 November Stephane Dujarric, associate spokesman said the UN Special Envoy, Razali Ismail, during his visit from November 12-16, strongly urged the Government to release political prisoners in a large number at one time, so that more than 200 political detainees would have been released by the end of 2002.

He said, “The Secretary-General hopes this first large-scale release will provide fresh momentum for the national reconciliation process in Burma.”

The U.S.State Department also welcomed the latest batch of prisoner releases in Burma.

A State Department official said, “We welcomed the announcement that 115 individuals will be released on November 21st. We have no further information at this point on these announced releases. We hope this announcement will lead to immediate and unconditional release of all remaining political prisoners. In terms of the broad picture of national reconciliation there continues to be a need for progress on substantive political dialogue between the regime and the national league for democracy.”

Thursday’s was the biggest single prisoner release so far in Burma . However, the good news was marred by the sentencing of Khin Maung Win, a law student who was tried the same day in a special court at the Insein prison. He was sentenced to 7 years in jail for distributing anti-government leaflets.

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