Opposition slams junta's refusal to free prisoners

Feb 6, 2009 (DVB), Pro-democracy groups have criticised the ruling State Peace and Development Council's refusal to release political prisoners and accused them of stalling national reconciliation.

During the recent visit of United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari to the country, Burmese government ministers said prisoners already had access to an appeal process.

Regime leaders also called for sanctions to be lifted to allow Burma to develop.

Arakan League for Democracy leader Aye Thar Aung, who is also secretary of the Committee Representing the People's Parliament, said the regime was only focused on its own aims.

"The refusal shows in a way that the SPDC is not interested in national reconciliation," Aye Thar Aung said.

Tate Naing of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said the release of political prisoners was vital for progress in Burma.

"With what is happening now in Burma, the essential thing is the release of political prisoners," he said.

Military and political analyst Htay Aung of the Network for Democracy and Development said"We can say that the SPDC’s refusal to take basic steps shows that it has no desire for national reconciliation," he said.

"They might also be worried that the release of political prisoners might ruin their election plans."

Nyo Ohn Myint of the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area) said the regime's insistence that sanctions be lifted and refusal to release political prisoner meant there could be no compromise with the opposition.

"There would be no economic sanctions if all political prisoners were released; the blockade arose from their human rights violations," Nyo Ohn Myint said.

"Therefore the SPDC needs to release all political prisoners," he said.

"It is necessary to negotiate with groups inside the country for the release of political prisoners and to solve the problems of Burma."

Aye Thar Aung said the opposition needed to work together to pressure for the release of political prisoners.

"To solve the problems of the country, the NLD and ethnic parties and armed groups should work together in unity," he said.

"Instead of just making demands, it is more important to start to do what needs to be done," he went on.

"It is necessary for the people and political parties to work together to make them release political prisoners."

Reporting by Nan Kham Kaew

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