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UN Envoy: Aung San Suu Kyi in Good Health - 2003-06-10


A United Nations envoy has managed to meet with Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and says she is in good health. Razali Ismail was allowed to visit the detained leader at the end of a five-day visit to Rangoon.

Razali Ismail told reporters that Aung San Suu Kyi is in good spirits. He says the pro-democracy leader shows no signs of injuries she was reported to have sustained in a clash 11 days ago with government supporters in northern Burma. The remarks may ease growing international concern over the health of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been held incommunicado since the incident.

The Burmese government says it placed the Nobel Peace Prize winner in protective custody following the clash. It also detained the senior leaders of her National League for Democracy party, sealed party offices and closed the country's universities.

The government blames the NLD for the clash, in which it says four people were killed and more than 50 were wounded.

U.S. embassy officials visited the site last week and say the clash was a premeditated ambush on NLD members by pro-government groups. The incident and subsequent crackdown has led some Western governments to consider imposing tougher sanctions against the Burmese government.

A professor at the University of the Philippines, Noel Morada, says if the diplomatic report is true, it will be a great concern to governments in Asia and in particular ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"ASEAN has been pushing for this constructive engagement and it's going to be quite an embarrassment for ASEAN if this approach of constructive engagement and dialogue between the followers of Suu Kyi and the military will not push through and, in fact, will be drawn back by these developments," says Mr. Morada.

Reaction in Asia has been mostly muted. Thailand has expressed concern over the situation and Japan has called for the immediate assurance of political freedoms. But China, a major trading partner, says it considers the detention of Burma's opposition leaders an internal affair.

Mr. Razali told reporters before leaving Rangoon Tuesday that he will seek the release of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and work to put the national reconciliation process back on track. He said he hopes those detained will be free by the time he returns, but did not say when that would be.

The NLD won national elections more than a decade ago, but the military government never let it take power. Instead, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi spent most of the 1990's under house arrest, and thousands of NLD members were imprisoned. Mr. Razali's efforts to broker talks between the government and the opposition last year resulted in Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi being freed from more than a year in detention.

However, it appears Burma's government became concerned by her growing popularity, as she toured the country to rebuild her party. At several locations, her supporters reported pro-government groups and officials tried to interrupt NLD rallies.

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