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Indonesian Envoy Urges Release of  Aung San Suu Kyi - 2003-09-23

Indonesian special envoy Ali Alatas met with Burma's top military leader on Tuesday to urge the release of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Indonesian envoy did not meet with Burma's Nobel Prize winning democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, but met with Burma's senior general Than Shwe on the last day of his visit.

Earlier, Ali Alatas met with Burma's Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and Deputy Foreign Minister Khin Muang Win, but no details were available on what subjects they discussed.

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri sent Mr. Alatas, a former foreign minister, to press Burma's military government to consider releasing Aung San Suu Kyi, who is recovering in a Rangoon hospital after surgery last week. But Aung San Suu Kyi's personal physician ruled out visitors while she is recuperating.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of Burma's pro-democracy party, which won the general election in 1990. The military refused to accept the election results and for the past 14 years has periodically held her under house arrest. Since May 30 and prior to her hospitalization, Aung San Suu Kyi has been held at an undisclosed location.

As a consequence, international and regional pressures are increasing on Burma's government to release her and start political reform.

In a marked change of policy towards a member state, the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations recently criticized Burma's government about Aung San Suu Kyi's detention.

Indonesia is the chair of ASEAN this year and an Indonesian diplomat says the main reason for the envoy's visit was to help Burma manage its "political situation." Indonesia and other ASEAN states fear this political situation will dominate the organization's annual summit in October.

The United States is stepping up tough economic sanctions against Burma, while the European Union maintains trade and travel restrictions, all measures meant to push the government toward reform.

A United Nations spokesman in New York says the U.N. special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail, will travel to Rangoon next week to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi and press for her immediate release.