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Page last updated at 06:55 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 07:55 UK

Burma 'to free 9,000 prisoners'

Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi is still under house arrest in Rangoon

The military government in Burma says it is releasing 9,000 prisoners because of their good conduct.

State media said the prisoners would be freed so that they could participate in elections due to be held in 2010.

The National League for Democracy - led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained for most of the past 19 years - said it did not know whether any political prisoners would be released.

The amnesty follows the detention of two democracy activists last week.

The Myanmar Times, a state-censored newspaper in Rangoon, reported that the military government was releasing 9,002 prisoners as a gesture of "loving kindness and goodwill".

"We haven't heard of any political prisoners being freed," said Nyan Win, a spokesman for the opposition NLD.

"I do hope they will be released, but I don't think it will happen," he added.

ILO concern

Burma is holding at least 2,000 people because of their political or religious beliefs, human rights groups say.

On Friday, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) expressed its concern about the sentencing of Thet Way to two years of hard labour.

Thet Way had been helping people, including child soldiers, to file complaints about forced labour, the ILO said.

The ILO said it was "concerned and disappointed" at the sentence, the maximum permissible under the law. It added that it had been in contact with the military government about the case "at a senior level".

"The ILO cannot but consider that the sentence imposed is related to Thet Way's role in complaining on forced labour practices," the United Nations agency said, urging that the sentence be reviewed and Thet Way released immediately.

Burmese opposition media reported that a former student activist was also jailed last week.

The New Delhi-based Burmese opposition Mizzima News Agency said Lu Tin Win was sentenced last Thursday to two years in jail, on charges of "disrespectful act towards the state".

Lu Tin Win, detained in 1999 but released in 2007, was re-arrested on 29 September 2007 at a checkpoint where he was searched and found by the police to have a copy of the book 'Opinion of 88 Generation Students', the agency said.

Huge pro-democracy protests in 1988 gave rise to the "88 Generation" of activists.

In 1990, general elections were won resoundingly by the NLD and Aung San Suu Kyi. The result was ignored by the military.



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