Myanmar opposition calls for amnesty on national day

Yangon - Myanmar's opposition party Saturday called for the immediate release of thousands of political prisoners to mark Myanmar's 88th National Day, while the ruling junta called for unity in moving towards democracy with "flourishing discipline."

The National League for Democracy, Myanmar's main opposition group, demanded the release all political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi and student activists during celebrations at their headquarters in Yangon.

The party also demanded authorities allow all political parties which were dissolved in 1990 to re-register to contest the upcoming
2010 polls.

Hundreds of NLD supporters gathered in front of headquarters while plain-clothed state security agents monitored their movements from other side of the road.

Min Thein, a supporter joined with others by holding a white paper writing "release all political prisoners including Min Ko Naing," an activist who was recently sentenced to 65 years in jail.

The NLD also urged the junta to allow the reopening of its provincial branches which were shut down by authorities since the bloody
2003 Depeyin crackdown, which led to Suu Kyi's latest arrest and detention.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, has been under house arrest for the past five and a half years.

Myanmar's National Day marks the start of the country's indepdence movement, when students from Rangoon University boycotted studies to protest the British government's university law in 1920.

The country won independence from Britian in 1948, and has been under military rule since 1962, when General Ne Win overthrew the first post-independence elected prime minister U Nu, and launched the country along his disastrous "Burmese Way to Socialism."

At the military's capital of Naypyitaw, 350 kilometres north of Yangon, supreme leader Senior General Than Shwe marked the day with anti-colonial rhetoric and calls for unity to strive for democracy with "flourishing discipline" under military rule.

"Today, certain world powers are attempting to dominate other countries in various sectors by interfering in their internal affairs through the practice of neocolonialism," the junta leader said in a speech.

"So, I would like to warn that you remain constantly vigilant against such threats in order to protect our country based on national awareness."

Noting that 92.48 per cent of voters had endorsed the new constitution in Myanmar's national referendum of May, the general urged people to help "build a peaceful, modern and developed new democratic nation with flourishing discipline."

The May referendum was dubbed a travesty by international observers, who said it was cynically pushed through by Than Shwe when millions of people where trying to recover from the devastation of Cyclone Nargis.

The storm smashed into Myanmar's Irrawaddy delta on May 2-3, causing widespread devastation and killing as many as 140,000 people. (dpa)

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