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Aung San Suu Kyi Being Held for Her Own Protection, says Burma - 2003-06-15

Burma's foreign minister says opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is being held to protect her from an assassination attempt. Win Aung gave no timetable for freeing the democracy activist. Foreign Minister Win Aung says Burma's military government is not detaining opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but is holding her in protective custody to keep her safe from unnamed assassins. Mr. Win Aung, speaking Sunday in Cambodia ahead of a meeting of regional foreign ministers, said the government had heard there were assassins in the country.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, head of the National League for Democracy, has been held since a May 30 clash between her supporters and pro-government groups. Most other NLD leaders have been placed under house arrest and the party's offices have been closed. Mr. Win Aung says Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi will be released when the situation in the country returns to normal, but did not say when that might be.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and top diplomats from several other nations are expected to press Burma to free the NLD leader at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations gathering in Cambodia, which starts Monday.

Mr. Win Aung says his government remains committed to national reconciliation, and calls the May 30 violence "very unfortunate." The government says four people died in the incident in northern Burma, but human rights groups say the death toll was much higher.

Aung San Suu Kyi was released from 18 months detention 13 months ago. Since then, efforts to promote dialogue between the military government and opposition have largely stalled. The foreign ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh includes ASEAN's dialogue partners, such as the United States, Japan and Australia.

Several of the dialogue partners are expected to follow the U.S. lead and push for Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi's release. However, many analysts have said the ASEAN states are unlikely to focus on the issue at the meeting. ASEAN has a policy of not getting involved in the internal affairs of its members.