UN chief hails release of Myanmar dissidents

UNITED NATIONS- UN chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed Friday the release of a batch of political prisoners in Myanmar but urged the junta to free those still being held, including democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
"The Secretary-General welcomes the release of a limited number of political prisoners as part of a larger amnesty," Ban's spokeswoman Michele Montas said.

UN chief hails release of Myanmar dissidents
Earlier Friday, Myanmar authorities freed two journalists who helped victims of last year's Cyclone Nargis and released several opposition activists as part of an amnesty for more than 7,000 prisoners, according to witnesses.
One of the freed journalists was Eint Khaing Oo, 28, who was arrested in 2008. This year she became the first recipient of an award set up in memory of a Japanese video reporter who was killed in monk-led protests in 2007.
The other journalist was Kyaw Kyaw Thant, who was arrested with her as they took a group of survivors of the May 2008 cyclone to the United Nations head offices in Yangon.
Nargis killed around 138,000 people and left thousands more homeless after battering southwestern Myanmar. The military regime's slow response to the disaster drew international criticism.
Ban renewed his call to Myanmar's rulers "to ensure the release of remaining political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, as a necessary step towards a credible process of national reconciliation and democratic transition."
The UN secretary general, who visited Myanmar in July, has repeatedly pressed for the release of the opposition leader and other political prisoners.
The 64-year-old Suu Kyi was found guilty in July of breaching the terms of her house arrest after John Yettaw, an eccentric US former military veteran, swam to her lakeside villa in May and stayed there for two days.
Myanmar junta leader Than Shwe commuted Suu Kyi's sentence to 18 months under house arrest, but this would still rule her out of elections due to be held next year.
Suu Kyi has been confined for 14 of the past 20 years, ever since the military regime refused to recognize her National League for Democracy's landslide victory in the last elections held in 1990.

Saturday, September 19th 2009

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