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Aung San Suu Kyi's Detention is a Domestic Matter, Insists Burma - 2003-06-28


The military government of Burma said Saturday the continued detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was purely a domestic matter, and criticized Western diplomats for calling for her release.

It was the first official reaction by Burma's government to the growing international outrage over Aung San Suu Kyi's detention on May 30.

The government's comments appeared Saturday in a commentary in the two state-run newspapers. It said Burma was "exercising it's sovereign power" in regards to the detention, and that even in Western countries "lawbreakers are arrested and action is taken against them."

This was the first suggestion by the government that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has been arrested for a crime. Up to now, officials have said simply that she was being held in "protective custody."

The statements appear to be a rebuff to governments around the world, which have been pressuring Rangoon to release the Nobel Peace Prize winner. Japan, the country's largest aid donor, says it will halt any new aid to Burma unless she is released, and the United States and the European Union are threatening to add harsher economic sanctions to the ones already existing against the country.

Even the usually reticent Association of Southeast Asian Nations took the unprecedented step of criticizing Burma, a member nation, for the detention.

The newspaper commentary also seemed to be a reply to the U.N. special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail, who was in Jakarta Saturday asking the Indonesian government to put further pressure on Rangoon for Aung San Suu Kyi's release.

She and members of her National League for Democracy party were touring northern Burma on May 30 when they were attacked by supporters of the government. Human rights groups say up to 70 people were killed in the clash, but the government says only four people died.

Dozens of NLD party members were also arrested, including vice chairman Tin Oo. The government allowed a team from the International Committee for the Red Cross to visit Tin Oo and other detained party members last week, and one Red Cross member said Tin Oo he appeared to be unharmed.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and her party won elections in 1990 by a landslide, but the military never allowed them to take power. She has spent much of the time since then under house arrest.

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