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Burmese Medical Doctor Aung Khin Sint Released from Prison

Dr. Aung Khin Sint, a Burmese medical doctor and senior member of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD), was among 11 NLD members released from prison on July 18, 2001. He had served just over one-third of his 20-year prison sentence for peacefully expressing his opinions. Four of those released, including Dr. Aung, were elected as members of Parliament in 1990, but the military authorities refused to honor the election results.

Since a high-level dialogue between the military government and NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi began in October 2000, more than 150 members of the opposition are reported to have been released from prison. Among the political prisoners released this year was the elderly medical doctor and NLD member of Parliament elect U Saw Mra Aung, whose case had been undertaken by the CHR.

Dr. Aung was arrested in August 1993, reportedly for writing and distributing an open letter and leaflets to delegates of the National Convention about his opinions on the progress of the Convention discussions. (The ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) created the National Convention in 1992 to discuss the drafting of a constitution with delegates from various political parties. The Convention was chaired by a 15-member commssion, all of whom were active military officers. The delegates were divided into eight groups by occupation and background; each was chaired by a military officer. Six of the eight groups agreed to a constitution that gave the military continued control of the government. The two groups that opposed the decision were the elected parliamentarians and representatives of political parties. Dr. Aung was among many SLORC opponents reportedly arrested in connection with the convention meetings.

Following a trial that failed to meet international fair trial standards, Dr. Aung was sentenced, on October 15, 1993, to 20 years' imprisonment for "endangering public tranquility, having contact with illegal organizations, and distributing prohibited literature." He was released in late January 1995, along with about 100 other political prisoners, following intense international pressure and just days after a visit to Burma by the U.N. Secretary General. In May 1996, just days before an NLD conference was scheduled to take place in Yangon, commemorating the sixth anniversary of the NLD election victory, the SLORC arrested more than 250 NLD supporters, including Dr. Aung. He was released after several days, but subsequently was reportedly pressured by the authorities to resign from the NLD, which he did. Nevertheless, on July 22 or 23, 1996, Dr. Aung was arrested at his home and returned to prison to serve the remainder of his previous 20-year sentence. In response to an inquiry by the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Burmese government reportedly stated that Dr. Aung had been imprisoned again because he did not honor his pledge to give up political activities and must therefore resume serving his sentence. (The Working Group considered that Dr. Aung's renewed detention was "linked with the fact that he peacefully exercised his right to freedom of opinion and expression" and, therefore, that his detention was arbitrary.)