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Respectable Dr. Ma Thida

250 gather in Boston to honor imprisoned Burmese activist: Dr. Ma Thida 

	BOSTON (AP) _ Ma Thida, a doctor, writer and political activist,
	can't receive the award she's earned for fighting for human rights
	in Burma. The 27-year-old sits alone in a dark prison cell.
	But on Tuesday, hundreds of lights shined for her in Boston.
   	About 250 people gathered for a candlelight vigil on the Boston
	Common to honor Thida's struggle to bring human rights to her
	troubled homeland in Southeast Asia.
   	``I hope she can feel the candles that we have lit here,'' said
	Susannah Sirkin, deputy director of Physicians for Human Rights, a
	Boston-based group. ``She faces 17 more years.''
	Thida is one of four young activists from around the world being
	honored with the Reebok Human Rights Award in Boston Wednesday.
	Activists from Nigeria, Guatemala are also being honored, along
	with a 13-year-old Canadian boy.
	Thida was imprisoned in 1993 for opposing Burma's military
	dictatorship and supporting the political party of Nobel Peace
	Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Among the charges against her were
	``endangering public tranquility and distributing unlawful
   	At the vigil were representatives of Amnesty International, and
	celebrities including musicians Michael Stipe and Peter Gabriel and
	Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.
	Myaing Nyunt, a 30-year-old George Washington University medical
	student and a close friend of Thida's, said the international
	community must not forget Burma's plight. She recalled Thida's love
	of reading along with her determination.
   	``Ma Thida is the most stubborn person I have known in my entire
	life, but her health has always been on the weak side,'' Nyunt
	Sirkin said Thida has lost weight and suffers from tuberculosis
	in her small cell with little light and no books.
   	Menino issued a proclamation on behalf of the city, stressing
	the need to fight for human rights every day.
   	``I look forward to the day she can travel to Boston to accept
	the award she so richly deserves,'' Menino said.
   	Afterwards, Stipe, of the musical group REM, reflected on the
	``It's just great to get some form of solidarity,'' he said.
	``Even if we are thousands of miles away.''
   	Massachusetts has the only state selective purchasing law that
	bars state agencies from dealing with companies that do business
	with Burma. Several cities have passed similar laws.
   	The law is intended to force investors, including foreign
	companies, to choose between doing business with Burma or the state
	of Massachusetts. Apple computers recently announced it was pulling
	out of Burma because of the Massachusetts law.
   	Ma Thida is being held in the Insein Prison, where torture of
	political prisoners is commonplace.
111243 Dec GMT