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Jan 5, 2010 (DVB), Independence Day was marked by the opposition in Burma yesterday with calls for strength and unity in the "struggle to win the second independence" from military rule, an opposition politician said.
Around 1500 people, including foreign envoys and ethnic leaders, gathered at the headquarters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, the official opposition to the country's ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), in Rangoon to mark the 62nd anniversary of independence from British rule.
"This day is not about looking back and just being sentimental about independence we gained 60 years ago, but is about making resolutions, collecting strength and finding unity," said Win Tin, a senior NLD member who spent 19 years in prison for his political activities.
"I would like to pass on a message for youths and students that, in order to take part in the struggle, we all need to keep our 'no fear' spirit intact."
Other ceremonies were held at NLD offices around the country, and while police surveillance was intensified, there were no reports of intimidation or harassment. Events were also held amongst exiled Burmese communities in Thailand and Malaysia.
A statement released by the NLD called for the release of the country's 2,100 political prisoners, including detained NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and to allow the reopening of NLD offices outside of Rangoon.
It also demanded permission for ethnic political parties to register and be given the freedom to campaign in the run up to elections.
The head of Burma's ruling junta, Than Shwe, in a separate ceremony at the capital Naypyidaw, confirmed that elections would take place this year, but failed to announce a date.
He also called for "correct choices" to be made during the polls, a comment which could be interpreted as a warning against voting for Suu Kyi.
The NLD is however yet to confirm whether it will participate in the elections, and has demanded a revision of the 2008 constitution, which looks set to cement the military's grip on the country, which it has ruled in various forms since 1962.
Burma gained independence in 1948, following 124 years of British rule, and was presided over by a civilian government until a coup 14 years' later led by the country's first dictator, Ne Win.
Reporting by Naw Say Phaw