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Burma to Mark 60th Year of Independence Amid Criticism

Burma is preparing to mark the 60th anniversary of its independence from Britain, while the international community continues to urge the country's military rulers to democratize.

The Czech Republic's Foreign Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, Thursday sent a letter to Burma's ruling authorities, asking for the release of all political prisoners.

An editorial in a Burma-focused news magazine, the Irrawaddy, criticizes the government's so-called Seven-Step road map to democracy, noting the recently-conlcuded first step, the National Convention, took 14 years..

One Burmese ally, North Korea, sent a warm anniversary greeting to military ruler General Than Shwe, expressing a hope that friendly relations between their two countries would expand.

Burma achieved independence from Britain in 1948. But in 1962, after years of internal struggle, a military coup, led by General Ne Win, abolished the constitution and established a government with socialist principles.

Since then, the military government has suppressed the democratic opposition, led by pro-democracy icon and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for most of the last two decades.

In September 2007, the military government violently confronted monk-led pro-democracy activists. According to the United Nations, 31 people were killed during the crackdown and at least 4,000 others were arrested.

The U.S. recently condemned Burmese authorities for continuing to arrest activists.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.