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Aung San Suu Kyi Recovering from Surgery in Rangoon - 2003-09-19

Burma's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, remained at a private hospital in Rangoon Friday where she is recovering from surgery. The democracy activist is said to be in stable condition.

Democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been hospitalized since Wednesday, and apparently has had surgery for a gynecological condition.

Originally, it was reported the Burmese opposition leader had surgery on Thursday, but then news reports out of Burma said the procedure was on Friday.

Earlier Friday, crowds of her supporters gathered near the hospital in Rangoon awaiting news of her recovery.

Their concerns over Aung San Suu Kyi's health are compounded by the fact the 58-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner has been detained since May 30. She was taken into custody after a clash between her supporters and pro-government forces while she was on a political tour.

Since then, only the International Red Cross and a United Nations representative have been allowed to see her. Several human rights groups and foreign governments have expressed concern about her health.

Senior members of Aung San Suu Kyi's National league for Democracy told reporters the opposition leader was well and under the care of her personal physician, Tin Myo Win.

The medical center, the Asia Royal Hospital, is one of Rangoon's newest medical facilities and is well regarded by some Western diplomats in the city.

Naing Aung is a director with the Network for Democratic Development, based in Thailand. He said concern about Aung San Suu Kyi's health reflects her pivotal role in political reform in Burma. "She's the only one who can build the bridge, who can make the trust of the people and who can appeal to the domestic community and the international community," he said.

International criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi's detention has forced the military government, known as the State Peace and Development Council, to shake up the cabinet and appoint a new prime minister, Khin Nyunt. General Khin Nyunt has promised the government will hold elections eventually, but has not said when or when Aung San Suu Kyi will be freed.

Naing Aung said her importance to Burma's political future cannot be underestimated. "The loss of her will be the loss of our future," he said. "I'm not really exaggerating, but that's how we see her, as the candle of our future; she's the light who can show the future."

Burma's current military government, in power for the past 15 years, remains under intense international to press on with dialogue with the opposition and Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD won national elections in 1990, but were never allowed to take power. She spent much of the time since then under house arrest.