Burma opposition welcomes prisoner amnesty

Sept 24, 2009 (DVB), Burma's main opposition party yesterday welcomed the recent amnesty of nearly 130 political prisoners but called for the release of all those remaining in prison.

A statement released by the National League for Democracy (NLD) urged the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) to release all of "those who are committed to dialogue and national reconciliation".

Highlighted in the statement were NLD vice-chairperson Tin Oo, and leader Aung San Suu Kyi, both of whom are under house arrest, as well as ethnic and student leaders.

Ohn Kyaing, NLD information official, said that the released members "will be fully reappointed to their previous positions" in keeping with party policy laid down by Suu Kyi.

Among the 7,114 prisoners released on 18 September were 119 NLD members, including three elected people's parliament representatives from the 1990 elections.

The statement conflicts somewhat with critics of the ruling junta, including senior NLD member Win Tin, who said that the amnesty "was like putting make-up on a dead person's face".

The Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners , Burma (AAPP), who comprise of former Burmese political prisoners, said the move was a "cynical ploy" to deflect international criticism of the junta.

The amnesty was announced days prior to the arrival in New York of the most senior level Burmese government delegation to visit the United States in 14 years.

It also followed a critical report released by Human Rights Watch that political prisoner numbers in Burma had doubled since the September 2007 monk-led uprising.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday announced that the US would look to engage directly with the ruling junta after years of isolation and sanctions which had failed to reap results.

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet

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