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Burma Remains Silent on Timetable for Aung San Suu Kyi's Release - 2003-08-01

Burma's foreign minister says the military government will not prolong the detention of democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, but the generals still refuse to give a timetable for her release.

Speaking to reporters at a four-nation foreign ministers meeting in Bangkok, Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung said authorities will release Aung San Suu Kyi when the situation in the country is calm, but he refused to be pinned down to a timetable.

"We do not have any time frame right now [to release Aung San Suu Kyi], but we do not have any intention to prolong the arrangement," he said. "We are waiting for [the situation] to cool down."

Foreign ministers from Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia met to discuss economic cooperation. But the topic of Aung San Suu Kyi's detention was a hot subject for reporters, who get few opportunities to question Burmese leaders.

Aung San Suu Kyi was detained May 30 after she and her followers were attacked by a government-backed mob. She has been kept in a secret location since then. The Burmese government has given various accounts of the incident, including that Aung San Suu Kyi might be assassinated and that her repressed National League for Democracy Party was behind a coup plot.

But the Burmese foreign minister insists the government has detained Aung San Suu Kyi only to prevent anarchy and political turmoil. "We do not have any animosity against Aung San Suu Kyi," he said. "That is why we do not have any legal action taken against her or her party."

Thailand is pushing Burma to adopt what Thai officials have labeled a "road map" to democratization in Burma. They have not released any details of the plan, but they have said the first step must be Aung San Suu Kyi's release.

Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai labeled the recently-imposed tougher U.S. sanctions on Burma counter-productive. "We do not agree with sanctions," said the foreign minister, "and we say that so many times, because sanctions do not lead to democracy. Sanctions create hardship to the poor people; so we have a different approach. We do not adopt sanctions."

Mr. Surakiart said economic sanctions will only result in more refugees flooding into Thailand, where he said there are almost one million illegal Burmese.

Burma has been under Western sanctions for years, because of its human rights abuses. Since Aung San Suu Kyi's most recent detention in May, normally reticent Asian nations have become more critical of the military government's stance toward the democracy movement.