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Aung San Suu Kyi's Detention Apparently Extended

  • Ron Corben

Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi failed to appear outside her Rangoon home, even though a one-year extension of her long-standing house arrest was due to expire. All indications are that the Burmese democracy activist's detention has been extended yet again, by a military government that is seen as becoming increasingly isolated and paranoid.

Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest appears to have been extended, despite the absence of any official announcement from the Burmese government.

The Nobel Laureate and democracy activist's current detention was due to expire. Instead, reporters observed a police car entering her Rangoon compound before 10:00 a.m., and departing several minutes later.

There was no comment by the government, but diplomats and analysts had not expected Aung San Suu Kyi to be released, despite of repeated international calls for her freedom.

U Lwin, the spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, told reporters in Rangoon he had not been able to determine whether an order extending her detention had been issued by the government.

She has been held in confinement for much of the last 10 years. Her current detention began May 30th, 2003, and was renewed last November.

Kraisak Choonhavan, a member of neighboring Thailand's Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says the international community must continue to press for her release.

"We cannot be disheartened by this, but we must persevere to demand for her release, and it's really quite unfortunate her detention has been extended for too long already," said Kraisak Choonhavan.

The Burmese government has come under intense international pressure to release the democracy activist, from the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and from elements within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Burma is a member. In July, Burma was forced by criticism of its human-rights record to forego its turn as ASEAN chairman for 2006.

Instead of responding to the pressure, the Burmese leadership has withdrawn further into a shell of self-imposed isolation. Early this month, suddenly and with only minimal explanation, the leaders began moving the government to a new capital, Pyinmana, in the jungle 400 kilometers north of Rangoon.

Thailand's Mr. Kraisak said Aung San Suu Kyi's detention would be raised during the forthcoming ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur, by a caucus on Burma composed of lawmakers from five Southeast Asian nations.

"This will be discussed in Kuala Lumpur among parliamentarians of the five ASEAN countries, and we will probably demand immediate action of the respective ASEAN governments against Burma," said Kraisak Choonhavan.

Human-rights activists led by former Czech President Vaclav Havel and retired South African Bishop Desmond Tutu have called for more concerted action for Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom, including intervention by the U.N. Security Council.