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Burmese Military Government Closes Opposition Officies - 2003-06-01

The military government in Burma has reportedly closed down the offices of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi in most major cities. The closures come after the Nobel Peace Prize winner and a score of top party leaders were detained following reports of a clash in northern Burma.

Government and opposition sources Sunday said the offices of the opposition National League for Democracy party have been closed in most cities, including Rangoon and Mandalay.

They say that a half-dozen senior party leaders in the Burmese capital have been placed under house arrest and their telephones cut off.

The crackdown came as NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi and 19 party officials entered a second day of detention in a town in Sagaing Division, some 700 kilometers north of Rangoon. She had been on a month-long tour of northern Burma to open party offices and speak at rallies.

Government spokesman Brigadier-General Than Tun said Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters were placed in protective custody after a clash with what he called their opponents. He indicated that the government blamed NLD organizers for the violence, which the government says resulted in four deaths and at least 50 people being wounded. There was no independent confirmation of the report.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has made several trips outside Rangoon since she was released from house arrest a year ago and her party was allowed to resume some activities.

The crackdown is causing concern among Western governments, which have been pressing the Burmese authorities to move more quickly toward democratic reform.

A U.S. State Department official, Josh Glazeroff, told VOA's Burmese Service the U.S. government hopes the crackdown will be temporary. "We hope that any detention is, indeed, momentary and she and those traveling with her will be released immediately, in line with the official statement that she was detained temporarily for her protection," he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has expressed concern over the situation. He says the developments underline the urgent need for national reconciliation in the country.

Mr. Annan's special envoy for Burma, Razali Ismail, is due to travel to Rangoon on Friday to try to revive the reconciliation talks that have been stalled since last year. Mr. Razali on Sunday told reporters in Kuala Lumpur that he intends to proceed with his trip.