07/04/2012, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Aung San Suu Kyi tells Burmese government to release 330 political prisoners

Burma's opposition leader calls for the release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. The authorities speed up amnesty and free 46 prisoners, including 20 political prisoners. Nobel Prize laureate Suu Kyi says she has the right to call the country 'Burma' despite government warnings.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Hundreds of political prisoners remain in Burmese jails and should be released, pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said a day after the government decided to release 46 prisoners as part of an amnesty, including 20 prisoners of conscience.

In a statement, Ms Suu Kyi brushed off orders from Myanmar's government to stop calling the country "Burma". The old dictatorship changed the country's official name some two decades ago to Myanmar when it was under international isolation.

"In a democratic nation, things should be done after viewing the desire of the people," she said, adding the army had renamed the country without consultation.

"We will call for the release of all 330 political prisoners," said the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) at a press conference. Similarly, "we will continue to work for the release of all political prisoners," said Ko Ko Gyi, a prominent former political prisoner.

Yesterday, the Burmese government decided to speed up its amnesty by releasing 37 men and 9 women today "with a view to ensuring the stability of the state and making eternal peace, national reconciliation, enabling all to participate in political process".

Than Zaw, who was imprisoned in 1989 for his alleged role in bombing the Thanlyin Oil Refinery, was among the prisoners released. Despite his innocence, he was first sentenced to death, later commuted in appeal to life in prison.

"I'm neither grateful nor happy," Than Zaw said. "I was imprisoned for so many years-more than two decades-for a crime I didn't commit."

Although the actual bomber, a Karen National Union major named Ko Ko Naing, confessed to the crime and was released in 2005, Than Zaw continued to languish in prison.

Former 88 Generation Students Group activist Aye Aung was also among the 20 or so prisoners of conscience released.

He was initially sentenced to 59 years-later reduced to 29 years-on charges that included violating the Emergency Act as well as illegally printing and distributing leaflets.

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