Two prominent Mon political prisoners in Burma who were sentenced to life terms in jail were released on Monday.
Nai Yekkha and Nai Chem Gakao are leading members of the New Mon State Party (NMSP) who were convicted on July 17, 2003, by the Burmese junta of plotting to detonate bombs in the former capital Rangoon.
The friends originally received the death sentence but this was later commuted to life in prison.
Nai Tin Aung, a peace negotiator for the NMSP, told The Irrawaddy that Burmese Railways Minister Aung Min handed the pair to party officials in the Mon State capital Moulmein.
“It is good news for us Mon,” he said. “We are very happy about this and [Aung Min] has acted according to his promise.”
Aung Min, the government’s chief peace negotiator, presented the two political prisoners to Nai Htaw Mon, the chairman of the NMSP, at the city’s Strand Hotel at 1:30 pm.
The group then went to the Mon Assembly Hall where around 600 Mon youths include Buddhist monks put on a welcoming ceremony for them.
Nai Yekha was a central committee member of the NMSP, while Nai Chem Gakao was a colonel. Nai Jon, a youth leader in Mudon Township, said that many young people wanted to travel to Moulmein to greet the political prisoners on their return home.
Nai Yekha (aka Nay Win) was held at Insein Prison in Rangoon. Nai Chem Gakao (aka Min Myo Thwe) was arrested at the same time but later transferred from Insein Prison to Thayarwaddy Prison, Pegu Division, in 2010.
The NMSP asked for the two prominent party members to be released as a goodwill gesture since entering peace talks with the Burmese government earlier this year. The party signed a ceasefire agreement with Naypyidaw on Feb. 25.