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Aung San Suu Kyi Refuses Freedom, Until Leaders of Her Party Are Released - 2003-11-08


The United Nations human rights envoy to Burma says Burma's military government has released pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, following months of international pressure, but that she is refusing freedom until 35 leaders of her National League for Democracy party are also released. The envoy, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, made the remarks at the end of a week-long visit to Rangoon.

Mr. Pinheiro told reporters in Rangoon Saturday that Burma's military leaders told him Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is not being held under any security law. But he said the pro-democracy leader is refusing to accept any freedom of movement for herself until all her colleagues who were detained during a government crackdown on her party five months ago are also released.

The Burmese government detained Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and scores of leaders of her NLD party following a clash last May between her group and government supporters. The government at the same time closed most NLD offices in the country.

Mr. Pinheiro said 35 party members are still in detention, including eight members of the Central Executive Committee, while 101 have been released. The NLD swept national elections in 1990 but the military never allowed it to govern.

During his visit, Mr. Pinheiro met with Ms. Aung San Suy Kyi at her home in Rangoon and with several senior party leaders who he said are being held at a government guest house. He also met with some 20 political prisoners at a prison outside the capital. And he met earlier in the week with Burma's Prime Minister Khin Nyunt, who recently announced a road map toward democratization.

Mr. Pinheiro is to report his findings to the U.N. General Assembly next week.

Mr. Pinheiro's visit comes as Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra prepares to visit Burma next week. Thailand and several other Asian governments have discreetly pressed Burma to open its political system and have proposed their own road map toward democratization.

However, Thailand, Indonesia and others of Burma's Southeast Asian neighbors, in unprecedented fashion, have openly and strenuously called for Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi to be released from detention. Their demands have coincided with unrelenting pressure on the military government from around the world in the months since she and her colleagues were taken into custody.

The Thai and other Asian governments espouse a policy of constructive engagement with Burma. This policy has been criticized by human rights groups, and is in contrast with a policy of sanctions adopted by the U.S., European and Japanese governments.

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