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Aung San Suu Kyi Detention to End in 3 Months - 2003-07-30


In the wake of sustained international pressure on Burma's military government over the detention of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Burmese official has told Indonesia's foreign minister that the Nobel Prize winner's case will be "resolved" within three months.

After weeks of vague comments and defiance of the international community, the Burmese authorities might have finally given the world an end point for the detention of the Aung San Suu Kyi.

Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung was quoted by his Indonesian counterpart, Hassan Wirayuda, as saying the case of the detained democracy leader would be "resolved" before the October meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.

The Indonesian minister did not say Win Aung had specifically promised Aung San Suu Kyi would be released. Win Aung himself, in Indonesia for an Asia-Africa summit, would only say that Burma had no desire to prolong the current situation.

Nevertheless, the comments attributed to the Burmese minister appear to be the most explicit indication his government has given to date of when and if Aung San Suu Kyi might be released.

Rangoon has been under intense pressure from the its fellow members in ASEAN, and from the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Japan, to release the pro-democracy activist.

Until this week, it had replied only with criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy, and with vague assurances that she would be released sometime in the future.

Critics of the government received the Burmese minister's comment with caution. Aung Zaw is the editor of the Thailand-based Irrawaddy Magazine, which caters to Burmese exiles, and he says he was not reassured. "I think they have said a lot of things and it has never been implemented into action. So, I would rather wait and see what happens in October."

Aung San Suu Kyi was detained two months ago, after her convoy was attacked in northern Burma by a pro-government mob. Rangoon has said that she was being held in "protective custody," and that she would be released only when the situation in the country had calmed down.

The detention has spurred Washington and Tokyo to impose economic penalties on the country, and Burma's Asian neighbors have been uncharacteristically critical of their fellow ASEAN member.

Jakarta currently holds the ASEAN chair. The Indonesian foreign minister said his country would be willing to help resolve the impasse in Burma, but he added that he hoped the Burmese would be able to solve the problem themselves.

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