|02RANGOON1510||2002-11-22 08:48:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Rangoon|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L RANGOON 001510
1. (C) Summary: The GOB released another 115 political
prisoners on November 21. The NLD has received the names of
50 NLD members who were released as well as one other who
military intelligence mistakenly identified as an NLD member.
ICRC received all 115 names. This brings the total number
of political prisoners released since the talks began between
the NLD and the government to about 550, of which more than
400 have been NLD members. According to NLD spokesman U
Lwin, only about 110 NLD members remain in prison. End
2. (C) The National League for Democracy's spokesman, U Lwin,
told Poloff November 22 that his contacts in military
intelligence had provided him last night with a list of 51
supposed NLD members who had been released as part of the
GOB's announced release of 115 political prisoners on
November 21. According to U Lwin, 50 of the 51 were indeed
NLD members, though none were particularly high-ranking.
Most were "students" (actually individuals who were now 30 to
40 years old after spending years in prison), including the
one non-NLD member, who had been swept up with a group of NLD
members at the time of their original arrest. Otherwise, the
group included only one member of an NLD state-wide executive
committee and 'two or three" township committee members.
None of the 16 NLD MPs were released; neither were any other
high profile prisoners (NLD or not) part of the release.
3. (C) U Lwin said that the latest releases, when completely
confirmed, would bring the total number of political
prisoners released since the start of the talks between Aung
San Suu Kyi and the military to about 550, of which more than
400 were members of the NLD. Altogether, he said, there are
now only about 110 NLD members still in detention, though
that group includes many major figures, including U Win Tin
and the 16 NLD MPs.
4. (C) U Lwin noted that some of the press stories on the
releases stated that 57 NLD members had been released. So
far as he knew, that was not true, but he feared that some
NLD members might have been offered their release, but
refused to sign the warning given every paroled prisoner.
That warning stated that released prisoners could be made to
serve the remainder of their sentences, if arrested again on
similar charges. U Lwin said that the NLD had told the
prisoners that this was not a pledge of good behavior; it was
simply part of the procedures for release and that no
released prisoners had ever yet been re-arrested.
Nevertheless, some prisoners still refused to sign the
warning. Hence his concern about the discrepancy in numbers.
4. (C) ICRC's protection officer, Christophe Hartmann, told
Poloff that ICRC had received a list of 115 prisoners who had
been released from various prisons throughout Burma on
November 21. However, the released prisoners had not yet
checked in with ICRC. Only when the prisoners had checked in
would ICRC be prepared to say that the full release had taken
5. (C) In this case, DCI, the Burmese public relations firm,
appears to have gotten its facts right. Apparently, the GOB
did release 115 prisoners November 21 though it may take some
days to fully confirm that number. According to U Lwin, the
release was probably timed to coincide with the UN's
consideration of the resolution on Burma and the upcoming
SAIS conference on Burma in Washington. It may also have
been the first tranche of the 200 to 300 political prisoners
Secretary 1 Khin Nyunt told Razali the government may release
before the close of the year. End Comment.