Sunday, November 21, 2004

Min Ko Naing freed

The Irrawaddy On-line Edition

Student Leader Freed By Kyaw Zwa Moe November 20, 2004

Burma’s most prominent student leader was freed on Friday after being detained for nearly 16 years in jail, a family member said. Paw Oo Tun, known as Min Ko Naing, or “Conqueror of Kings,” arrived last night at his home, Rangoon , from Sittwe jail, 350 miles (560 km) northwest of Rangoon . Min Ko Naing "I feel as if I have awoken from dreamland and I've just started to open my eyes," Min Ko Naing told Reuters news agency at his home after being freed from prison. The 42-year-old former student leader is in good health, except that he has a low fever. He is now resting, a family source said. Min Ko Naing and 20 other political prisoners were released from prisons across the country on Friday, after the military government announced 3,937 prisoners would be released since they had been sentenced improperly by the National Intelligence Bureau, or NIB. The powerful NIB was dissolved last month after the military junta sacked Prime Minister and intelligence chief Gen Khin Nyunt. The charismatic student leader was arrested by the Military Intelligence in March 1989 for his leadership role in the 1988 democracy uprising. During the uprising, Min Ko Naing became chairman of the All Burma Federation of Students’ Unions, which is banned in Burma . The student leader was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, but later reduced to 10 years. Despite having already completed his sentence in 1999, the authorities continued to detain him under Article 10 (a) of the State Protection Act until his release. Friends of Min Ko Naing and former student activists welcomed the news. They said it is good news for Burmese activists and campaign groups who have been campaigning for the release of Min Ko Naing. While people are happy to learn the release of political prisoners they maintained cautious optimism. “They release him (Min Ko Naing) today and they can put him back in jail tomorrow,” said a Burmese activist in Rangoon . Political observers are doubtful that the mass release of prisoners will lead to political reconciliation.

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