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Democracy Activists Mark Aung San Suu Kyi's Birthday with Call for Her Release - 2003-06-19


Democracy activists around the world are marking the birthday of Burma's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, with protests and renewed calls for her release from detention.

Supporters of the Burmese opposition leader were demonstrating in India, Japan, Thailand, Australia, the United States, Canada and Europe. The activists marked the 58th birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi by calling for her release from almost three weeks of detention.

In Burma, an NLD member said well-wishers conducted quiet ceremonies in temples and monasteries to mark the day.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has been held since May 30, when violence erupted between her National League for Democracy supporters and pro-government demonstrators. Several of her supporters were killed or injured.

Burma's military government says Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is being held to protect her from unidentified assassins. The country's foreign minister said Thursday the detention is temporary but would not say when she might be freed.

Debbie Stothard is a spokeswoman for the human rights group, ASEAN Network in Burma. She says recent international pressure may push the military government to release the Nobel Peace Prize Winner. But Ms. Stothard says the government must do more than that.

"We need to see some genuine move toward a dialogue process that eventually includes the ethnic nationalities and some move toward political and economic reforms in Burma," she said.

Diplomats in Rangoon say there has been a wide crackdown against NLD members around the country, and many are missing. Some diplomatic sources say Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is being held under an internal security act that allows detention for up to 180 days.

Burma has been under the control of the military since a 1962 coup. In 1990, the NLD won a landslide election but the military refused to hand over power. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has spent many of the years since, under house arrest, and hundreds of NLD activists were imprisoned.

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