Political Prisoners Part of Burma Amnesty

At least three members of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's political party were among the more than 6,300 prisoners released by Burma's junta as part of a government amnesty, a party spokesman said Sunday.

Among those freed from prisons around the country Saturday was Zaw Myint Maung, a lawmaker who was serving a 20-year sentence, National League for Democracy spokesman Nyan Win said. Two other township committee leaders from the NLD — Pe Thein and Thet Wai — also were released.

Nyan Win said he was expecting to hear Sunday about additional NLD members freed.

State radio and television announced Friday that 6,313 prisoners were released in recognition of their good conduct and so they would be able to participate in a general election planned for next year.

In recent months, the junta's courts have sentenced more than 100 dissidents, including some of the country's most prominent activists, to prison terms that would keep them incarcerated well past the 2010 polls. The junta says the vote will restore democracy, but critics say it will be a sham to keep the military in control.

Human rights groups estimate the regime holds more than 2,100 political detainees, including Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has spent 13 of the past 19 years in detention without trial.

When the junta freed 9,002 prisoners last September, only about a dozen were political detainees.

Burma, which has been under military rule since 1962, is shunned by Western nations because of its poor human rights record. The ruling generals came to power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy uprising and killing as many as 3,000 people.

The junta called elections in 1990 but refused to honor the results when Suu Kyi's party won overwhelmingly.