MYANMAR FREES 5 OPPOSITION MEMBERS AND CANCER STRICKEN LEADER

Aye Aye Win
Associated Press

Myanmar's military junta on Friday freed five members of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party and a cancer-stricken opposition leader in the latest show of political goodwill, the government said.

The release came as Suu Kyi was quoted Friday by Israeli newspaper Haaretz as saying that she is willing to compromise with the junta in their talks to achieve national reconciliation.

"Dialogue always entails compromise," Suu Kyi was quoted as saying by Haaretz, one of Israel's most respected newspapers. A copy of the report was received in Bangkok, Thailand. "I don't think you can go into dialogue saying 'I can't compromise,"' said Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel peace laureate who was released from 19 months of house arrest on May 6. "You had better not start that way, because the dialogue won't get anywhere."

A government statement said it had freed five members of the National League for Democracy party from various correctional facilities and that all are "in good health and back together with their respective families."

It said the government also released from custody an "NLD-related individual," Aye Thar Aung, who is being treated for liver cancer in hospital.

"The authorities concerned have released him from custody on humanitarian grounds and will continue to assist him and his family with necessary care and assistance," the statement said.

Aye Thar Aung, 57, is secretary of the NLD's 10-member alternative parliament, which the party formed after the junta refused to hand over power despite an overwhelming NLD victory in 1990 general elections.

He is a representative of ethnic political parties but not a member of the NLD.

Aye Thar Aung was arrested in April 2000 and given a 21-year jail sentence for flouting an emergency law and a publishing law. Details of his alleged crimes were never released.

Friday's releases bring to 308 the number of opposition members freed since the start of the reconciliation talks almost two years ago between Suu Kyi and the junta. Another 250 NLD members remain in custody.

Suu Kyi has made the release of all political prisoners her foremost demand.

In her interview with Haaretz newspaper she did not say what she was willing to compromise over.

"I am not going to talk about it. It's very premature ... How can I talk about it?" she said during the Aug. 6 interview with a Haaretz correspondent in Yangon.

Suu Kyi has led a nonviolent campaign for democracy in Myanmar since 1988, soon after the current junta came to power after crushing a pro-democracy movement.

Her reconciliation talks have so far been described as confidence-building steps. No substantive dialogue has taken place between the two sides, but the government has made several concessions including giving Suu Kyi political freedom and releasing NLD members.