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Aung San Suu Kyi Detention is 'Counterproductive,' says Envoy - 2003-09-24

Indonesian special envoy Ali Alatas says Burma's on-going detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is counterproductive, adding that the military government has set no time frame to release the country's opposition leader.

Ali Alatas, speaking to reporters as he was leaving Burma, says Burma's military leadership gave him no indication when the country's pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, would go free.

Mr. Alatas, a former foreign minister, says he presented letters to Burma's leaders from Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri asking them to lift restrictions against Aung San Suu Kyi before next month's Asian leaders summit.

Indonesia holds the rotating presidency of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations, of which Burma is a member. Several ASEAN member states, including Thailand and the Philippines, are asking Burma to free Aung San Suu Kyi.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sihasak Phuangketkeow says ASEAN wants Aung San Suu Kyi's release.

We would like to see the early release or lifting of restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi as soon as possible," he said. "That is our position and we continue to hold on to that position."

Mr. Alatas was sent by the Indonesian president to mitigate between the Burma's military government and its opposition parties. Indonesia wants the contentious issue resolved so that it does not dominate the ASEAN summit in early October.

Mr. Alatas told reporters that continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is becoming "increasingly counterproductive."

Mr. Alatas did not meet with Aung San Suu Kyi on the advice of her personal physician. She remains in a hospital in Rangoon recuperating from surgery last week. Until her hospitalization, she had been detained at an undisclosed location for the past three and a half months.

The government says Aung San Suu Kyi is being held for her own protection after a violent clash between her followers and pro-government supporters on May 30.

Burma's prime minister, Khin Nyunt, recently proposed a "road map" to democracy, but did not set a time for its implementation.

Editor of the Thai-based independent newspaper The Irrawaddy, Aung Zaw, says Burma's government makes gestures to lessen international pressures, but does not take on real political reform.

"If ASEAN leaders, Thailand or the Philippines or Indonesia or Malaysia, if they are pleased with some sort of token gesture from the military junta then I think it is a mistake, because as we well know, the last 15 years the government in Rangoon always make cosmetic changes," said Aung Zaw.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in national elections in May 1990, but the government refused to hand over power and moved to annul the result.