07/07/2005, 00.00
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Military junta releases 249 political prisoners

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy and Nobel Prize winner, remains under house arrest.

Yangôn (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Myanmar's military junta released 249 of the more than 1,300 political prisoners held in its prisons.

Win Tin, a 75-year-old journalist held in solitary confinement, was one of the dissidents freed.

Reporters without borders (RSF), an international organisation that defends media freedom around the world, had taken up his case.

Sein Ha Oo, also a journalist sentenced to 20 years, was also let go.

For RSF, the liberation of journalists is "step towards press freedom".

Local sources report that 118 of these prisoners had been held at the Insein Prison in the capital Yangôn.

Missing from the list is 60-year-old Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of Aung San, Burma's independence hero.

Ms Suu Kyi, who leads the National League for Democracy, has been under house arrest for the past 15 years after her party won a crushing victory in an election that the military government refused to recognise and invalidated.

For many analysts, the release of political prisoners must be seen against a backdrop of US and European protests ahead of Myanmar's taking over the presidency of the Association of South-East Asian Countries (ASEAN) in 2006.

ASEAN is scheduled to meet in late December in Laos to discuss possible US actions should Myanmar actually chair the association.

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