01/15/2009, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Mandalay, student activist sentenced to 104 years in prison

The accusation is of promoting "political activities" and meeting with a dissident group in exile. The junta is releasing six activists arrested in December during a demonstration. Htet Htet Oo Wai, the woman who had asked for permission to pay homage to Aung San Suu Kyi, remains in prison.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The court of Mandalay has sentenced Min Yu Ko, a 20-year-old student activist, to 104 years in prison. According to an anonymous Burmese official, the accusation is of promoting "political activities during his trips to the border with Thailand," during which he is charged with "contacting a group in exile." The young man must also respond to unspecified charges "related to his political movement."

The sentencing of the young student is only the latest in Myanmar, headed by a military dictatorship that cuts off any form of dissent by imprisoning its opponents. In September of 2007, a demonstration led by Buddhist monks, calling for democracy and human rights, was violently repressed, followed by arrests of activists and political opponents.

There is good news, instead, for six members of the National League for Democracy, the opposition party founded by Aung San Suu Kyi. The six, who will be released from prison by the military junta, were arrested last month during a protest march in front of parliament, calling for the release of the "Madam," awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1991 and still under house arrest in her home on University Road in Yangon. A second Burmese official, also under the condition of anonymity, confirms that "six people out of nine were released from the detention center yesterday. But the only woman, Htet Htet Oo Wai, and two men are still in detention" and could face more charges for their political activity.

Htet Htet Oo Wai, 40, had written a letter to the junta last December asking for permission to go to the home of Aung San Suu Kyi, to pay homage to her. Her letter was never answered, and the military has closely followed her political activities. As of today, another 270 activists remain in prison under multiyear sentences, including monks, students, leaders of the NLD, because of their political activities and for helping the victims of the cyclone Nargis.

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