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Burma FM on Asian Tour


Burma's foreign minister is on a tour of Asia to try to counter growing criticism of its crackdown on the country's democratic opposition. Win Aung told leaders in Indonesia, which chairs the influential Association of Southeast Asian Nations, that opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi will not be detained indefinitely.

Burma's democratic opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since a clash between her supporters and pro-government groups on May 30.

Burma's ruling generals first described her detention as protective custody, saying she might be targeted by assassins. Ever since, there has been a growing international chorus for her release.

The United States and Europe moved to tighten sanctions already in place. Burma's Asian neighbors, traditionally in favor of engagement and quiet diplomacy, have taken the unusual step of publicly condemning Burma.

Both Malaysia and Indonesia have separately called on Rangoon to release Aung San Suu Kyi and open long-delayed talks on reconciliation and democratic change. Thailand offered to mediate. As of Sunday, this outside pressure appeared to have little effect, and the military went on to accuse the opposition of plotting to overthrow the government.

But Monday, the first sign appeared that Burma's government might relent when Foreign Minister Win Aung met with Indonesian leaders.

Win Aung told reporters in Jakarta that his government is working on Aung San Suu Kyi's release when the situation in the country has cooled down, and she will not be in custody for a long period. "She is well looked after, and we are trying our best for the situation to become normalized again," he said. "And we are hopeful that the normalization attempts, of course, on our side we are trying to create an atmosphere of better conditions and better understanding."

Indonesia is the current chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Some members are threatening to push to expel Burma, if the situation is not resolved soon.

Burma's military government has repressed the opposition National League for Democracy, since the party won elections in 1990 but was not allowed to take power. Aung San Suu Kyi - who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 - has been in various forms of government detention, followed by briefs periods of release with restrictions.

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