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Efforts to Release Burmese Opposition Leader May Have Stalled - 2002-05-04

Efforts to release Burma's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, from more than 18-months of house detention may have stalled over conditions for her release. Burma's pro-democracy activists are becoming concerned with the delay in the much-anticipated release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Her release has been widely expected during the past week. Comments from a United Nations official and members of her National League for Democracy indicated it could come any day. The military government has begun allowing foreign journalists into the country, and workers recently tidied up the road in front of Aung San Suu Kyi's home. Political sources in Rangoon are indicating tough bargaining is taking place over conditions for her release. Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since late 2000, after she attempted to travel outside Rangoon for an NLD meeting. She also spent most of the 1990's under house arrest. If she is freed, it would be the biggest success for U.N. efforts to mediate between the military government and the opposition. The United States has called for Aung San Suu Kyi's release to be unconditional. Her freedom is a prime demand of the international community. But analysts have said Burma's government wants Aung San Suu Kyi to limit her political activities if she is freed. Rangoon sources have said the government wants Aung San Suu Kyi to call for an easing of economic and trade sanctions, and to cooperate with the government in humanitarian areas such as health and education.

Saturday, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, said Thailand would welcome Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom. But he said the Thai government opposes an international effort to boycott Burma if she is not released.

The NLD won a landslide victory at 1990 general elections, but the military government refused to hand over power. Instead, it harassed and arrested hundreds of party members and political activists. So far, little has been achieved in two-years of secretive talks between the government and Aung San Suu Kyi. The government has released more than 250 political prisoners, but human-rights groups say more than 1,200 remain in detention.