Monday, January 5

Aung Shwe: Hope is totally lacking.

Associated Press: Myanmar's pro-democracy party marked the 61st anniversary of the country's independence from Great Britain on Sunday, saying it foresaw no hope for the military-ruled country.

At a ceremony inside the dilapidated headquarters of the opposition National League for Democracy, its chairman Aung Shwe also called for the release of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and other party leaders.

Suu Kyi _ who has been under house arrest for more than 13 of the past 19 years _ put up a banner at the gate of her home quoting a speech her father, independence hero Gen. Aung San, had once given: 'Act decisively in the interest of the nation and the people.'

In a speech to about 250 party members and diplomats, Aung Shwe said that national unity is in disarray and that there is 'no harmony between the government and the governed.'

'Hope for the present and future of the country is totally lacking,' Aung Shwe said.

Myanmar gained independence from Britain on Jan. 4, 1948, after more than 120 years of colonial rule. It has been under harsh military rule since 1962.

Meanwhile, the leader of the military junta Senior Gen. Than Shwe warned that 'neocolonialists' were interfering in domestic affairs and inciting riots to undermine unity and stability.

'Neocolonialists' normally refers to Western nations that have been sharply critical of the regime's human rights record and brutal crackdowns on any protests.

The current junta emerged in 1988 after violently suppressing mass pro-democracy protests. It held a general election in 1990, but refused to recognize the results after a landslide victory by Suu Kyi's party.

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