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Tuesday July 3, 2007

Prominent Myanmar AIDS activist freed from detention

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) - Phyu Phyu Thin, a prominent AIDS activist and opposition party member in Myanmar who was taken into custody by police more than a month ago, has been freed from detention, she said. 

Phyu Phyu Thin, 36, is a member of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, the country's main opposition party, which faces constant harassment from the military government. 

Phyu Phyu Thin said she had been held at a detention center in Yangon after being taken in on May 21, and was freed Monday night. 

She was not formally charged with any crime, she added. She was taken from her home after marching in processions to pray for the release of Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest and has been held continuously since May 30, 2003. 

Several dozen other Suu Kyi sympathizers were arrested with Phyu Phyu Thin, but they were released on June 27. 

Phyu Phyu Thin said she did not know why she was not freed along with the others. 

There was no statement from Myanmar officials, who rarely announce the detention or release of prisoners. 

Phyu Phyu Thin has been caring for HIV/AIDS patients since 2002, providing counseling and education, sending them to clinics and providing accommodation to those from outlying areas. 

"I am fine and I will meet my patients tomorrow,'' said Phyu Phyu Thin. 

She said she had gone on hunger strike for about a week while in detention, leaving her very weak after subsisting on a liquid diet. 

"I staged the hunger strike demanding to know why we were arrested without charges. I demanded to know on what grounds we were detained and if we were accused of breaking any law.'' 

Phyu Phyu Thin thanked all those who had sought her release. 

"Efforts and pressure by all parties including the international community are always very important for those who have been arrested,'' she said. 

The U.S. State Department last week had expressed its concern about her. 

"The United States expects the Burmese military regime to provide her with appropriate and humane medical attention.  

The United States calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Phyu Phyu Thin,'' it said. 

Myanmar used to be known as Burma, a name that continues to be used by parties who feel its military government lacks legitimacy. 

Suu Kyi's party won a 1990 election, but the ruling generals refused to let it take power. 

Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate who is one of the world's most prominent political prisoners, has spent almost 12 of the past 18 years in detention. 

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