Monday, September 3, 2012

Blacklisted dissidents returning to Burma

Monday, 03 September 2012 12:46 Mizzima News

Moe Thee Zun, a prominent student leader during the 1988 Burmese protest movement, was welcomed by supporters as he arrived at Rangoon airport on Saturday.

Moe Thee Zun, the ex-chairman of All Burma Students' Democratic Front, at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon on Saturday, September 1, 2012. He returned to Burma after 20 years following the removal of thousands of names from the country's blacklist. Photo: Hein Htet / Mizzima

He was among a score of arriving Burmese dissidents returning to the country after the government removed more than 1,000 names from a blacklist.

Moe Thee Zun, who has been living in the United States, was sentenced to life in prison in absentia. The ’88 democracy protests were crushed by the government, sending thousands of Burmese students into exile.

Also among the returning dissidents were Nyo Ohn Myint of the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area), Dr. Thaung Tun and Dr. Naing Aung of the Forum for Democracy who arrived at Rangoon International Airport on Friday.

Moe Thee Zun and other dissidents fled Rangoon in 1988 to the remote border regions and fought alongside ethnic rebels against the junta. He said he decided to return to Burma to discuss national reconciliation and said he hoped to hold talks with the government in the coming days.

Moe Thee Zun's last public encounter with President Thein Sein was in New York in 2009. The former student leader threw his shoes at the cars carrying the then prime minister, who was visiting the UN, said the BBC.

Since then, Thein Sein has released hundreds of political prisoners and enacted a series of reforms since he took power in 2011. He has also eased media restrictions and brought into his Cabinet allies who back his reformist agenda.

On Thursday, the government released the names of over 1,000 people – not all of them Burmese – who had been blacklisted but are now free to enter Burma. The activists, politicians and global celebrities included former Philippine President Corazon Aquino, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the late American congressman and entertainer Sonny Bono, the sons of Aung San Suu Kyi and others.

An announcement posted on the Burmese president's official website did not disclose the current status of about 4,000 other people who were blacklisted earlier.

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