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Burma Frees Six More Opposition Activists - 2001-09-10

The military government in Burma has released another six prisoners of the pro-democracy party of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The releases are a result of a discreet political dialogue between the government and opposition and come a few weeks after a senior U.N. diplomat visited Burma.

A statement by the military government in Rangoon Monday says the six members of the National League for Democracy party were in good health and were released from various detention centers as a goodwill gesture.

The statement said a total of 167 members of the party have been released this year, in its words, after serving sentences for criminal offenses. Party leaders say 24 party members are still under detention, including NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi. International human rights groups say there are 1,500 political prisoners in Burma.

Five of those released Monday were elected to Parliament in Burma's last general election in 1990. The NLD won these elections but was never allowed to govern.

Representatives of the military government and the opposition began a series of secret meetings nearly one year ago. The dialogue is aimed at building trust. It also reportedly is aimed at leading to some form of power sharing that would end Burma's international isolation and help revive its stagnating economy.

Neither side has commented publicly on the talks, but U.N. envoy Razali Ismail, who has been facilitating the dialogue, met last month with both sides. He reportedly told Rangoon-based diplomats that the talks are going well and that both sides are pleased with the progress.

Senior members of the government have begun high-profile visits to other countries in the region. Newspapers in Thailand, following one such visit last week, quoted Thai military sources as saying they were told by their Burmese visitors to expect good news soon from the talks between the Burmese government and opposition.