Myanmar opposition calls for release of political prisoners in National Day

The party of detained Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi marked National Day with calls Friday for the country's military rulers to free her and other political prisoners. Meanwhile, the chairman of the ruling junta, officially called the State Peace and Development Council, used the occasion to call for unity against Western "neocolonialists."

Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace laureate, and her deputy Tin Oo have been detained since May 2003 when a pro-government mob attacked her and her followers as she toured northern Myanmar. After the attack, the government launched a crackdown on her National League for Democracy, closing party offices throughout the country.

"We demand the immediate and unconditional release" of NLD Vice Chairman Tin Oo and General Secretary Suu Kyi, said a National Day message read out by party member Win Myint at a ceremony at NLD headquarters in the capital, Yangon. Some 200 NLD members, veteran politicians and journalists attended the ceremony, in which the NLD also called for the release of ethnic Shan political party leaders and other political prisoners, as well as the reopening of NLD offices outside the capital.

The term "neocolonialists" is usually used for Western nations that criticize the military regime for its poor human rights record and refusal to hand over power to a democratically elected government. Western powers also accuse the junta of tolerating a massive trade in illicit drugs. Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won a 1990 general election called by the military, which then refused to convene Parliament. Than Shwe also urged the people to help make the junta's planned transition to democracy a success.

In 2003, the junta declared the seven-point road map toward democracy and convened a National Convention to guide the process. The National Convention, which adjourned in March, will resume in December. The NLD has called the convention a sham and has refused to participate, reports the AP. N.U.

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