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Burma's Universities Reopen; Aung San Suu Kyi Remains in Custody


Burma's universities have reopened, two weeks after being closed in an effort to avoid unrest over the detention of the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The reopening comes amid intense international pressure on Burma's military government to free the Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Burma's leaders said they are holding Aung San Suu Kyi in "protective custody" to protect her against a possible assassination attempt.

She was detained after a violent clash between her supporters and those of the government on May 30, and the government quickly closed the nation's universities for fear of unrest over the detention.

The universities have been key areas of support for the movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy.

While Burmese education officials described the resumption of classes as peaceful, the government is under increasing pressure to release Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

She is being held at an undisclosed location, somewhere near Rangoon. The only outsider allowed see her has been the U.N. special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail.

Mr. Razali has been attempting since late 2000 to bring about reconciliation between the government and the NLD.

But while an initial period of "confidence building" appeared to be succeeding, the dialogue appears to have broken down. The May 30 attack on Aung San Suu Kyi's motorcade in the north of the country was allegedly carried out by supporters of the military leadership, and reportedly resulted in dozens of death and injuries.

Burma's foreign minister, Win Aung, is currently in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, for this week's annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers.

ASEAN has traditionally avoided comment on the internal affairs of its member states. But following international pressure, including from the European Union and the United States, Burma's treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi has been placed on the meeting's agenda.

Aung Zaw, editor of Irawaddy magazine, said there is growing frustration in Burma over the lack of political reconciliation, which may result in precisely the type of unrest the government feared when it closed the universities.

"There must be some kind of way out, otherwise this frustration will build up, and things - a lot of undesirable things, more attacks and riots and street fights - may break out in Burma. … You have to push back to the path of national reconciliation. That is a very difficult task at the moment," he explained.

The ASEAN foreign ministers are expected to issue a statement of concern Tuesday about the fate of Aung San Suu Kyi.

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