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UN Envoy Arrives in Burma in Bid to Obtain Release of Aung San Suu Kyi - 2003-06-06

The United Nations special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail, has arrived in Rangoon in a bid to obtain the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained last Friday along with top leaders of her party. The visit comes as the U.S. government says there is evidence that the clash that led to the detentions was an ambush by pro-government elements.

Mr. Razali arrived in Rangoon Friday saying he hopes to see Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been held incommunicado for one week.

The U.N. special envoy told Reuters News Agency before leaving Malaysia that a face-to-face visit with the pro-democracy leader is becoming more and more important. "There is increasing concern about Aung San Suu Kyi now. Nobody has seen her. She has not said a word and rumors are swirling about her being injured," he said. "So I must be able to see her and come out to be able to assure everybody that she is fine, she is not injured."

A spokesman for the Forum Asia rights group, Sunai Phasuk, said Razali Ismail should make such a meeting a condition for his trip. "We would like to urge Mr. Razali to put it as a pre-condition that he must get access to see Aung San Suu Kyi and ensure that she is safe and she will be released immediately and unconditionally. And if this condition is not met he should leave Burma immediately," he said.

Mr. Razali was already scheduled to visit Burma when the crackdown occurred. He has been mediating between government and the NLD for the past two years and helped obtain authorization for the NLD to resume some political activity.

Mr. Sunai notes that the Malaysian diplomat during this time has developed considerable access to Burma's military authorities. "Mr. Razali is the only person in the world, if there is anyone at all from the international community to see Aung San Suu Kyi. But if he fails it is unlikely that anyone else can do the job," he said.

The Burmese military government arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and top leaders of her National League for Democracy party after a clash in northern Burma. It subsequently sealed NLD offices and closed the country's universities.

The government says four people died and more than 50 were wounded in the clash, which it blames on the NLD. However, the U.S. State Department says its diplomats have visited the scene and found evidence that the clash was an ambush by what it calls pro-government thugs. A spokesman says it is likely that the casualty figures are higher than those announced by the government.