Burmese authorities have arrested at least 39 supporters of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi before they could reach temples to pray for her release.

A spokesman for the opposition National League for Democracy and witnesses say the activists were arrested Tuesday in different areas around the former capital, Rangoon.

Aung San Suu Kyi's supporters began holding weekly prayer vigils on May 1.

The Nobel peace laureate has spent most of the past 17 years under house arrest.  Her most recent term ends on May 27.

On Monday, more than 50 former world leaders, including three former U.S. presidents called on Burma to free the pro-democracy leader.  Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party made a similar appeal.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.