Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Khun Htun Oo, a Shan leder and a political prisoner who was sentenced to 93 years, has received the first Nationalities Hero prize given by the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), a group representing several ethnic nationalities in Burma.
Currently, Khun Htun Oo, 68, is detained in Putao Prison in Kachin State.
The award ceremony was held at Khun Htun Oo’s house at Ninemile in Rangoon on Wednesday, attended by ethnic leaders and National League for Democracy leaders. Wai Wai Lwin, Khun Htun Oo’s wife, accepted the honour certificate on behalf of her husband.
Aye Tha Aung, a member of UNA, said that Khun Htun Oo was the natural choice because of his dedication and struggle for ethnic groups and national reconciliation.
Khun Htun Oo is the chairman of Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD), the second largest winning party in the 1990 election in Burma. The party has since been dissolved because it decided not to contest in the 2010 election.
Khun Htun Oo, along with seven other Shan leaders, was arrested in November 2005 for attempting to form the Shan State Consultative Council.
One of the leaders, Sae Htin, was sentenced to 106 years in prison.
In the parliamentary session of People’s Parliament, Sai Hla Kyaw, an MP in the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party (SNDP), asked if amnesty would be granted to political prisoners, including Khun Htun Oo. Home Affairs Minister Maung Oo answered that only the president and the National Defense and Security Council have the power to grant amnesty, so it could be carried out only under the new government.
On Wednesday, President Thein Sein said in his inaugural address to Parliament that lip service and talks were not enough to achieve national unity, and leaders need to improve communication in ethnic areas and the education and the health standards of ethnic people.
He did not mention detained ethnic leaders and other political prisoners.
There are 324 ethnic political prisoners in Burma. The total number of political prisoners is 2,076, according to figures compiled in March by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).
Aye Tha Aung, who is also the secretary of the Committee Representing People’s Parliament, said that all political prisoners should be granted amnesty for the sake of national reconciliation, but he did not think the new government would offer amnesty.
‘To achieve national reconciliation, all political prisoners should be released. And the government needs to hold political dialogue with armed groups to establish peace. But, I see little hope the new government will do that’, Aye Tha Aung said.
On the other hand, Lower House MP Sai Saung Si of the Shan Nationalities Democratic Party told Mizzima that he hoped that the new government would grant amnesty to all political prisoners.
A source close to the government’s Prison Administrative Department said that to win political favour, the new government was compiling a list of prisoners who will receive amnesty. However, the source said it is not known if the list includes any political prisoners.