Britain demands release of arrested Myanmar politicians

LEAD: Britain demands release of arrested Myanmar politicians

LONDON, March 18 Kyodo

(EDS: ADDING DETAILS)

The British government on Friday called for the immediate release from detention of 10 ethnic Shan politicians charged with sedition in Myanmar.

Foreign Office Minister Douglas Alexander said, ”I am concerned that 10 Shan politicians including Sai Htin and Khun Tun Oo, arrested in early February, are now facing charges of sedition.”

”I call on the Burmese regime to release immediately the 10 Shans and to give due weight to the proposals made by the ethnic groups in the National Convention,” he said, referring to a government-sponsored, opposition-boycotted convention that reconvened on Thursday to draw up a new state constitution.

Myanmar’s military government confirmed Tuesday that the 10 Shan ethnic political figures, arrested in early February, are in detention and stand accused of forming an organization aimed at the country’s disintegration and the destruction of the junta’s seven-step road map for the restoration of democracy.

The 10 figures allegedly plotted to establish eight states in Myanmar instead of the existing seven states and seven divisions to pave way for the seceding of Shan territories from the union one day.

Alexander said he believes the charges to be ”unjustified” and added they appear ”to be aimed at preventing politicians from participating in the National Convention.”

”These developments underline our view that the convention, which was only just recently reconvened, will not promote national reconciliation or help to resolve the ethnic minority problems which have beset Burma for decades and retarded its development,” he said.

The 10 politicians were arrested on Feb. 7 and 9 in Taunggyi after attending a meeting on Feb. 7 to mark Shan National Day, and were brought to stand trail in Yangon’s Insein Jail.

The prisoners families have not been allowed to visit, and lawyers have also been denied access to the detained politicians and to the four hearings held so far.

The 10 include Hse Htin, chairman of the Shan State Peace Council and Shan State Army, who is the first to be arrested among leaders of major ethnic political groups with armies that have entered into ceasefire agreements with the junta.

Also arrested were Khun Tun Oo, chairman of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy; Sai Nyunt Lwin, SNLD secretary; SNLD members Sai Hla Aung and Tha Oo; and Ba Thin, Myint Than, Nyi Moe, Myo Win Tun and Tun Nyo, all members of the New Generation Shan State party.

The National Convention has been successively boycotted by the SNLD, the SSA and the main opposition National League for Democracy, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest.

The NLD won the 1990 general election by a landslide. But the junta has prevented it from coming to power and insists a new election be held based on the constitution to be drawn up by the government-sponsored convention.

The SNLD won the second largest number of seats in the 1990 general election.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Kyodo News International, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group