BANGKOK — ; Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi remained under house arrest at her home in Rangoon on her 59th birthday Friday, although the military leadership released six members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
The six freed NLD members were released from a prison in the northern town of Monywa, party spokesman U Lwin told reporters. Hundreds of NLD members were detained after a government-led ambush of an NLD motorcade in the northern town of Depayin on May 30, 2003.
The newly released NLD members had been serving prison sentences ranging from seven to 10 years, said U Lwin. He didn't indicate what the six released party members had been convicted of, but many political prisoners are held under loosely defined emergency security statutes.
U Lwin said that Suu Kyi and Tin Oo were the only two NLD members still detained in connection with the government-led massacre, in which around 100 NLD supporters and local residents died, and an unknown number of women were raped, eyewitnesses told RFA.
To mark the Nobel laureate's birthday, 500 NLD supporters were planning to gather at the party's ramshackle headquarters in Rangoon to commemorate the day, party officials said. Hundreds of NLD youth wing supporters were also finalizing details for a ceremony Saturday at the city's Shwedagon Pagoda.
The party will mark the occasion — ; which the pro-democracy movement has also designated Burma Women's Day — ; by offering meals to Buddhist monks, freeing nine doves as symbols of peace, and releasing 60 balloons into the air.
U Lwin said Aung San Suu Kyi and and Tin Oo were the only two NLD members still in detention. The government has released the others in batches over a period of several months.
In Washington, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus held a hearing Friday to pay tribute to Aung San Suu Kyi.
Earlier this week, panicky residents crowded Rangoon's shops after the junta introduced massive tax and duty hikes on imported goods such as TVs and construction materials without giving any warning.
The "commercial tax" on imports was raised to a flat 25 percent from a variable range of 2.5 percent to 20 percent, the Ministry of Finance and Revenue said in a statement. Items such as medicines, computers, fertilizer, pesticides, diesel, and gasoline were exempted, the ministry said. It gave no reason for the hikes, which took effect June 15.
Recent proposals made by Prime Minister Khin Nyunt for a "road map to democracy", and a national convention on constitutional change appear to have changed little in the repressive regime's dogged grip on power.
Burma's ruling generals recently censored a Time magazine article criticizing the constitutional convention, and United Nations officials say their appear to be dragging their feet on cooperation once again.
The country of 42 million people, which won independence from Britain in 1948, has been under military rule in one form or another since the early 1960s. The NLD won a decisive victory in multi-party elections in 1990, but the generals refused to relinquish power.