[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Thursday, 18 October 2007, 02:51 GMT 03:51 UK
Leading Burmese dissidents freed
Kyaw Thu (L) and Zagana (third from left) during anti-government protests
Kyaw Thu (L) and Zagana (third from left) were involved in protests
Three prominent Burmese dissidents detained following last month's protests have been released, the BBC has learned.

The three include a prominent comedian, Zagana, who played a high-profile role in the pro-democracy demonstrations.

Actor Kyaw Thu, and his wife were also released late on Wednesday, according to family members.

Earlier, Burma's military leaders said they would continue searching for protesters involved in the uprising.

Meanwhile, the UN envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, said he had been invited back to the country in mid-November.

Mr Gambari visited the ruling generals, and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in the immediate aftermath of the crackdown.

He is currently touring Burma's neighbouring countries to press them to use their influence with the Burmese authorities.

'Being interrogated'

Comedian Zagana was arrested on 26 September after visiting Rangoon's Shwedagon pagoda to give food and water to protesting monks.

Kyaw Thu and his wife also offered food to the monks at the pagoda. They went into hiding but were arrested in early October.

Prior to news of their release, a statement from the ruling junta, carried on the front page of The New Light of Myanmar newspaper, made clear the crackdown was continuing.

"Those who led, got involved in and supported the unrest which broke out in September were called in and are being interrogated," it said.

Troops and a military truck in Rangoon on 1 October 2007
Troops have made thousands of arrests in recent weeks

"Some are still being called in for questioning and those who should be released will be."

A total of 2,927 people had been detained and nearly 500 were still being held, it said.

The number of arrests is an increase of almost 800 since the government's last official figures on 8 October.

Those released had been required to sign "pledges". The statement did not explain what these were, but some reports suggest they were a promise not to participate in further protests.

On Tuesday the Red Cross said it was appealing to Burma for access to the detainees, but said it had yet to establish a meaningful dialogue with the country's leaders.

International divisions

International pressure has been mounting on Burma in the wake of the crackdown.

Unidentified Burmese military officials
Burma's military government shows few signs of conciliation

Both the EU and the US have increased their sanctions on Burma, and the US said this week that it was considering further measures. Japan has cut a portion of its aid.

But Burma's largest trading allies, China and India, have not taken similar steps, and on Tuesday Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said there would be no threat of sanctions or suspension from the Association of South East Nations (Asean).

Burma's leaders, for their part, appear to remain defiant.

In a statement on Tuesday they ruled out a change of political course and questioned the need for UN involvement, saying that events in Burma did not threaten the region.

On Wednesday, Canada's lower house granted honorary citizenship to Ms Aung San Suu Kyi.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: "More than anyone else, she has focused international attention on the plight of her people."

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
New footage of Burma's marching monks



RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific