Myanmar keeps Suu Kyi detained; aid to continue
28 May 2008
YANGON, Myanmar – Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi began a sixth year under detention Wednesday as foreign donors said aid would continue to flow into the military ruled nation to save cyclone victims.
expressed regret over Suu Kyi’s continued arrest while praising “a new spirit of cooperation” between the junta and the international community in the aid effort.
In Washington, President Bush said Tuesday he was “deeply troubled” by the extension of Suu Kyi’s house arrest but stressed the U.S. would continue to provide aid to the victims.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate who has been detained for more than 12 of the past 18 years, had her detention extended by one year Tuesday, a government official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
On Wednesday, her National League for Democracy party denounced the extension as “illegal,” saying it would launch an appeal. Party spokesmansaid the regime should also open a public hearing on the case.
Suu Kyi has long been the symbol of the regime’s heavy-handed intolerance of opposition and the focus of a worldwide campaign lobbying for her release.
Myanmar’s heavily censored newspapers made no mention of Suu Kyi’s detention being extended and the government did not explain under what laws she could be held for another year. A 1975 law says that people deemed security threats can be detained for a maximum of five years without trial.
Outside Suu Kyi’s home, security returned to normal Wednesday. An extra row of barricades that was erected Tuesday was removed, leaving the usual single fortified barricade blocking the roads that lead to her lakeside home.
The extension of Suu Kyi’s detention came as Myanmar fended off worldwide criticism for its inadequate aid effort for the survivors of the May 2-3 Cyclone Nargis.
The storm left an estimated 2.4 million people in desperate need of food, shelter and medical care, according to the U.N., and the government says it killed 78,000 people and left 56,000 missing. The U.N. said cyclone devastation has forced postponement of the new school term in the delta for one month, to July.
Only after intense international pressure and a personal appeal by Ban, who visited Myanmar last week to meet with junta chief Senior , did the government relent and say it would allow foreign relief workers to travel to the Irrawaddy delta, the area hardest hit by the cyclone.
The U.N. says some of their foreign staffers have begun moving into the delta and emergency food supplies are being ferried in on its helicopters.
“Some international aid workers and NGOs have already gone into the regions of the Irrawaddy delta, without any problem,” Ban told reporters in New York on Tuesday. “I hope — and I believe — that this marks a new spirit of cooperation between Myanmar and the international community as a whole.”
The French warship Mistral landed Wednesday on the resort island of Phuket, Thailand, to unload some 1,000 tons of humanitarian supplies for shipment by the United Nations to Myanmar.
The regime has forbidden direct aid by warships of France, the United States and Great Britain, which have been standing by off the Myanmar coast to deliver the assistance. Myanmar’s state media has voiced fears of a U.S. invasion to grab the country’s oil reserves.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Hasan Wirayuda said Suu Kyi’s continued detention went against the “goodwill of the international community” in its efforts to aid Myanmar in its moment of need.
Myanmar’s leaders are leery of foreign aid workers because they fear an influx of outsiders could undermine their control. The junta is also hesitant to have its people see aid coming directly from countries such as the United States, which it has long treated as a hostile power seeking to invade.
But the ruling generals have long regarded Suu Kyi, daughter of the country’s martyred independence leader Gen. Aung San, as the biggest threat to their power.
Her National League for Democracy party is the country’s largest legal opposition group, and it retains the loyalty of millions of citizens despite two decades of constant repression.
U.N. efforts to spur dialogue in the wake of pro-democracy rallies violently supressed by the military in September have failed to make progress.
- Slideshow: Tens of thousands killed in Myanmar cyclone <!– (521)
- How to help victims of the cyclone at Network for Good
- Myanmar keeps Suu Kyi detained; aid to continue AP, 51 minutes ago
- Aung San Suu Kyi detention ‘will not affect cyclone aid’ AFP, 2 hours, 1 minute ago
Off the Wires
- Can a cyclone open the iron fist of Myanmar’s generals? at The Los Angeles Times, May 23
- Will Burma keep its word on aid? at BBC, May 23
- Suu Kyi’s house arrest extended at BBC, May 27
- Burma authorities prolong Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest and round up supporters at The London Times, May 27
- In U.S., a Multitude of Forces Drains the Spirit of Giving at The Washington Post, May 23
- Burma (Myanmar) dodges a bullet The Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo! News, May 21