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Malaysia Warns Burma that Other Nations are Losing Patience Over Suu Kyi's Detention - 2003-07-27


Malaysia is warning Burma's military government that the United Nations and other countries might interfere in the country's political crisis if democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi continues to be detained. Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations is seeking a regional solution for Aung San Suu Kyi's release. But he said the political stalemate may cause other nations to loose patience with fellow ASEAN member Burma. He said it would be "wise" for the ruling military generals to listen to the international community, or "other organizations, including the United Nations, may then come in to decide their fate." The foreign minister was speaking on the sidelines of a Malaysia-Thailand business summit on the northwestern Malaysian island of Langkawi. Burma's military rulers are under increasing pressure from the international community to release pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. ASEAN has taken the unprecedented step of criticizing one of its own members, and the United States is tightening sanctions.

The Burmese government also appears to have spurned an offer by Thailand this week to help mediate the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, calling her detention an internal affair. Aung Zaw, editor of the Burmese on-line Irawaddy magazine, said the generals are becoming more defiant in the face of international opinion and threats. He said it is increasingly unlikely the military leaders will release Aung San Suu Kyi any time soon.

"Aung San Suu Kyi may be held for a long period of time and [the] government will detain her as hostage until they find some sort of compromise," he said.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was detained after a violent incident May 30 while traveling in central Burma. Rights groups say as many as 70 people may have died in an attack instigated by pro-government forces. But Rangoon said only four people were killed and blames Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters for the attack.

Saturday the military junta announced it arrested 12 people who allegedly were plotting to overthrow the government and who may have links to the opposition leader and her political party, the National League for Democracy.

Also discussed at the Malaysia-Thai summit was a call from Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for Southeast Asian nations to integrate their economies in a way similar to the European Union in order to counter Western trade rules they deem unfair. Mr. Mahathir said ASEAN should focus on regional bilateral cooperation along with regional initiatives such as free-trade acts among its members to bolster regional economic strength.

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